Find the courage to be yourself.

Einar and Gerda Wegener were two happily married bohemian artists living in Copenhagen, Denmark in the mid-1920s. The Danish Girl, based loosely on their real life, is a fictitious film adaptation of their struggle with love and self-acceptance.

Einar and Gerda are painters, living a creative and wondrous life of marital bliss. Not constrained by the prudish pretenses of the time, Gerda does not hesitate to ask Einar to don women’s pantyhose when a model she’s painting is unavailable. What starts as a harmless game of dress-up leads to an awakening of the soul in Einar, a realization of self. The Danish Girl reveals the struggles these two must face as Einar connects with Lili, his female and true self.

The film makes it clear that trans people were not understood, especially by psychologists, and that gender fluidity was a taboo at the time. The gentle exploration of gender identity through the character of Einar is appropriate for the time. Though the liberal environment The Danish Girl portrays seems slightly unrealistic for the time.

Alicia Vikander plays Gerda, the paramour of Einar. Gerda is an enchanting woman; she is independent, creative, aware, supportive, and caring. She is all those things plus that intangible spark that is magnetic where you either want to be her or be with her. Since the Danish Girl is transparently a fictitious account of these real life artists, you can only assume these characteristics are traits Vikander chose to bring to the role of Gerda.  Eddie Redmayne had the dual role of playing Einar and Lili, in addition to the transitionary period while Einar comes to terms that they are one and the same.  With brief flutters of the eyes and quick glances, Redmayne subtly portrays the combined trepidation and exhilaration of facing your true identity.

The beauty of The Danish Girl is the love these two people share. There is no doubt they are soulmates, utterly devoted and selfless. The central drawing point for audiences is watching this love progress in the face of the unaccounted twist. It is heartbreaking to watch it grow strained and dark. Yet, you don’t feel the characters are being selfish nor is one a recipient of the blame.

The most eye-opening aspect of the film is the bravery of the desperate real life people of this time. To think people of the 1930s would attempt such an experimental surgery is startling. As an audience member watching the film, The Danish Girl helps to convey this is not a ‘choice’ in any way – which people hopefully don’t misconstrue as ‘queer propaganda’. (a term I abhor)