A Perfectly Normal Family (2020)

Written for RAF News September 2020

Set in 90s Denmark, we watch the titular idyllic family through a shaky hand-held videocamera – mum, dad and two young girls – as they complete the picture and bring home a puppy. Of course this happiness can’t last and there is the sudden announcement of divorce, set in motion by the father wanting to change gender.

A PERFECTLY NORMAL FAMILY – New Europe Film Sales

From this point the films jumps forward in time to various intervals of Thomas (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) during his transition but from the point of view of the children, and in particular his tomboyish daughter Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt).

At first we view a group therapy session in which everyone appears to be in denial except Thomas, for the first time perhaps, as he asks to be called Agnete. This scene is the most telling in the way that it frames it’s characters. Obscuring Agnete from view and focussing on Emma who has a scarf wrapped around her head in protest, we hear the rise in emotion as people storm in and out of the room, all whilst watching this faceless solitary figure, clearly struggling to process any of this.

Each segment in time is chaptered by the same VHS-grain home video of the perfect family from the beginning, when the advent of recording meant capturing moments of joy and celebration. We see Emma and Thomas playing football in the garden, and then jump back to her unwrapping her first football at Christmas, giving us some sense of the bond that is at stake.

Aside from these vignettes the style is naturalistic, and though it never loses sight of the conflict driving the film, it is the direct but gentle approach to the drama that makes it effective and feel less contrived. Based on the filmmakers’ experience of her own father transitioning when she was young, it is the contained drama that grounds the film and makes it feel personal.

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