A Perfectly Normal Family Review

A Perfectly Normal Family
One perfectly normal day, Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt), a quiet, football-loving 11-year-old, is told that her parents are divorcing because father Thomas (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) is transitioning to become a woman. Her cool older sister Caroline (Rigmor Ranthe) accepts the news while Emma struggles to adjust to this changed relationship.

by Sophie Monks Kaufman |
Published on
Release Date:

02 Oct 2020

Original Title:

A Perfectly Normal Family

Life is secure and predictable for Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt) as the youngest in a middle-class Danish family of mom, dad and older sister. It's football practice after school and takeaway pizza as a treat. Everything is in its right place. The first sign that anything is up in this perfectly normal family is Thomas (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) bursting into tears at a puppy adoption centre. Over pizza, his wife Helle (Neel Rønholt) angrily tells the children about his transition and their upcoming divorce. Emma and Caroline (Rigmor Ranthe) are shown as oblivious to any prior domestic disharmony which seems implausible considering that Thomas has hormone-therapy scheduled, and a few scenes later is presenting at family therapy sessions as Agnete, in a flowing skirt with elegant hair and make-up.

Thomas/Agnete is played by a cis male actor, making this a missed opportunity to have a transwoman bring the gravitas of lived experience to the role.

Emma is torn between wanting to be as accepting as the big sister she idolises and being too immature to handle any ruptures to normality. Kaya Toft Loholt is excellent as a squirming, quiet presence struggling with growing pains as well as the new relationship with her dad. Malou Reymann’s film occasionally undercuts her stress with broad comedic beats, such as when Caroline lets a wide-eyed Emma know that Agnete is tired from dilating her vagina.

Thomas/Agnete is played by a cis male actor (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), but for the lion's share of the run-time we are watching Agnete rather than Thomas, making this a missed opportunity to have a transwoman bring the gravitas of lived experience to the role. Følsgaard gives compelling psychological delicacy to the parental aspect of his character, yet physically embodies Agnete like a drag act with overemphasised mannerisms.

The script fails to reckon with the magnitude of transitioning, which is partly justified by the creative decision to tell the story through Emma's unreliable eyes, yet the writing increasingly jars as characters fail to develop and emotional stakes don't land. For Agnete is a two-dimensional character who seems to sail through an extraordinary medical and psychological process with not a jot of anguish. Reymann has dramatised her real experience of having a father who transitioned during her childhood. This biographical connection is surprising in light of how featherweight and throwaway the whole story ends up feeling.

Malou Reymann misses an opportunity to cast a trans actor and flattens the specifics of transgender experiences to the point that this could be a story about a child dealing with any kind of parental change.
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