Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: A wonderful, positive, realistic look at what it’s like living as a transwoman in Finland. Starts with an unusual premise and roll with it into a beautiful character study of all the people the main character interacts with.
I am way behind on my EU Film Festival movie reviews. “Open Up To Me” is the last of the films, but it’s fresh in my memory and was so delightful and such a great way to end the festival that I wanted to get it down first.
Maarit (Leea Klemola) is a transwoman trying to get by in Helsinki. Despite formerly being a school counselor, she faces discrimination after her transformation and must work as a cleaning lady to make ends meet. When going to clean the office of a therapist, she discovers that the therapist must go out of town for a couple of weeks to deal with an emergency. Using this newfound guaranteed privacy, she decides to try on some of the therapists clothes. (As an aside, this marks the second movie of the festival that features a cleaning lady trying on other people’s clothes. Strange that.) While in the therapist’s clothes, a new client, Sami (Peter Franzen) shows up asking for marital advice and Maarit poses as a real therapist and helps him. They develop a relationship through this and the movie blossoms into a character study of a handful of the individuals in Maarit’s life.
I obviously have no experience being a transwoman, but this movie feels perfectly organic the way it portrays trans issues. There’s the daunting dating scene. There’s the discriminating job market. There’s the angry and confused ex-wife. There’s the teenage daughter who barely understands the new dynamic thrust upon her. All of it is handled wonderfully and it is the key to what makes this movie work. There is humor and love and heartache and betrayal and confusion all rolled together to form the life of Maarit.
My one complaint about the movie is a brief fifteen minute or so bit of disjointedness. The movie kind of loses its way at this point, but it picks it up quickly where it left off and ends on one of the better feel good movie ending lines I’ve witnessed. If you have a chance to see this foreign film gem, I highly recommend it.