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New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - A PERFECTLY NORMAL FAMILY

A Perfectly Normal Family review
A young girl struggles to accept her father's decision to transition to female.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Malou Reymann

Starring: Kaya Toft Loholt, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Neel Rønholt, Rigmor Ranthe

A Perfectly Normal Family poster





However forward thinking and accepting and just generally decent and human one is, I wonder how I would feel if someone I knew and loved disclosed, seemingly out of the blue, that they were going to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Obviously, I would be supportive and positive and proud that this person was brave and honest enough to be who they are, but if I am being similarly sincere with myself, I admit that it wouldn’t be a simple thing to process. Firstly, there are the years of internalised doubt and misery this person may have undergone, and which I was oblivious to - that’s going to be a killer to accept. And then there are the general fears surrounding medical procedures and processes: swapping round those bits and bobs isn’t painless, either. But most distressing of all is going to be the prejudice, the spite and the stares which your beloved is going to soon face, with everyone from looky loos on the bus to J.K. Rowling chipping in their two grubby cents.

A Perfectly Normal Family review

Such persecution is going to be inevitable, and, however awful you feel about it, you know it’s going to be worse for them, of course it is. And maybe you’d feel bad for making it about yourself, too, but Malou Reymann’s (writer/director, along with co-writers Rune Schjøtt and Maren Louise Käehne - she of the amazing Queen of Hearts) compelling A Perfectly Normal Family reminds us that gender reassignment, and the potential upheavals which the process entails, is a situation that affects more than the person transitioning. Based upon Reymann’s experiences with her own father (if I am clumsy with pronouns, then please forgive me - it is naivety, not nastiness), A Perfectly Normal Family focusses in on 12 year old Emma, whose father (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), a loving and kind fella, announces that he is going to realise as a woman.

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Emma dotes on her father: she is a keen footballer, a passion which the film implies is linked to her love for, and desire to please, her dad. It’s a massive thing for a kid to accept; parents suddenly splitting, home life torn asunder, and, also, the loss of her dad. Because it is a loss: the person who she loved was never who she believed him to be and will not exist in the manner that he did before. How is she even supposed to refer to her now?

A Perfectly Normal Family review

They settle on the name Agnete, and, in fairness, the family are by and large accepting of their ‘new normal’. Agnete’s ex-wife is pragmatic, and Emma’s older sister is unphased (a bit unconvincingly so, to be frank). Which leaves Emma, who is conflicted, and, in the elliptical year-spanning narrative which follows, we see her being aggressive on the pitch, getting pissed on illicit vodka and dealing with bullies: quotidian adolescence experience, exacerbated by Agnete’s ongoing transition.

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Reymann’s camera is stoic, and, for a story with much potential for anguish, events are told with a quiet, dignified approach. Imdb lists the film as a drama, but there are some very funny moments too: when the girls meet with Agnete as she wears female clothes for the first time, in a deadpan medium shot Emma is filmed with a scarf wrapped around her face. Agnete, for her part, is wearing an absolutely hideous pink cardigan over a similarly flush top - rein it in, love!

A Perfectly Normal Family review

Perhaps, though, the most daring and interesting aspect of A Perfectly Normal Family is the suggestion that Agnete’s decision is partially selfish, and a manifestation of her restlessness. Is there the hint that Agnete’s transition is symptomatic of a mid-life crisis? At the end of the film, she still seems to be searching for something more, and moving further and further away from her children, both physically and emotionally. Agnete is certainly flawed, and at times unsympathetic in her occasionally oblivious approach to parenting. The problem with identity politics, for all the good it can and does fulfil, is that it can both sanctify and stereotype social groups, removing nuance from the ‘discourse’. Reymann’s film is not a statement about LGBTQ+, nor is it really a story about a trans person. A Perfectly Normal Family is an individual’s story, one that is both personal and convincing, and which deserves to be seen.

A Perfectly Normal Family is in UK cinemas and VOD from October 2nd.




2020 movie reviews