Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender icon. But nearly a century ago, Danish painter Einar Wegener became a pioneer in gender-reassignment surgery. You can’t take your eyes off Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), who is flat-out fabulous as Einar. As he is as Lili Elbe, the woman who begins to emerge when Einar’s artist wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), asks him to model in stockings and heels.
Director Tom Hooper dodges the biopic clichés in Lucinda Coxon’s script by pushing the actors to live in the spaces between words. Vikander does wonders as a wife who stands by her woman. And Redmayne deserves every superlative, showing Lili experimenting with her new feminine wiles. Through Redmayne, we feel Lili’s power in a room of admirers, and her fear of what’s next. The film never gets too graphic about sex or surgery. What Hooper has crafted is a work of probing intelligence and passionate heart.