Film Notes: Open Up to Me (2013) by Simo Halinen

As a one-liner, it can be about the daily troubles of a transgender. But as a film, it is all over the place without cohesion with threads that are blandly predictable.

2 out of 4 stars

A sudden love affair

Finnish film Open Up to Me (2013) is one of those rare films where a lot of things are going on yet you wonder what exactly is going on. Spoilers follow for the film.

It is mostly about Maarit, who is a transgender individual. When she indicates that life hasn’t been kind to her we completely believe her. That first shot is more convincing than the rest of the film. Maarit works as a cleaning lady in a lot of places. While every work is work, Maarit deserves more as her qualifications are higher. But her gender issues have come in her way. Therefore, one fine day, when she starts using a psychotherapist’s make-up and clothes finding herself alone, we understand that she is not overreaching herself. She is simply visualizing a life she deserved. But the bell rings right then. She opens the door looking almost like a psychotherapist, though her awkwardness is palpable.

The patient who has arrived is Sami. Sami wants to talk about his troubled relationship with his wife (that his wife makes him work too much). Now, this is where it starts getting messy. Maarit takes one session with Sami and that very night Sami and his wife are back in business. I wondered whether all psychotherapists are this efficient. We start feeling Maarit’s heat for Sami and soon she tells all about herself to him. A romance is on the cards. But it happens without any psychological tension, interplay, or doubt. Sami juggles around the two women very happily, even though he loves his wife. Maarit wants the couple to be with each other, but she also wants the husband to be with her.

bullets from all directions

Therefore, by now we have forgotten Maarit’s gender issues and instead have been given a bland romance. But soon, some events from Maarit’s past come along that target her (for her sexuality, obviously). Then Maarit’s daughter comes along, who on first look, appears traceless of what she really feels for Maarit. Suddenly, Sami plays a mentor-student role with someone. Then Sami’s wife comes into the picture. Soon there is a teacher and student affair. By now, it’s bullets flying all around.

By that point, I am wondering what the film really is about.

Is it about the daily troubles of a transgender? For the most part, we are given a dull predictable romance instead. Is it then about social discrimination of a transgender? That part occurs mostly in the background, developing as quickly and ending as simply leaving no traces of lasting complications. Is it then about the extramarital affair? But it occurs devoid of any underlying psychological ramifications. So, is it about how a straight man feels about a transgender? Sami soon avoids the fact that Maarit used to be a man, and leaves her the moment he is reminded of it. But Maarit, however, feels that Sami was with her because he was sexually confused and so wanted to be with a transgender (?). Is it about a complicated father and son relationship? There are hardly a few scenes between Maarit and her daughter.

Happily ever after

But no worries, by the end, everything is solved and everyone lives happily ever after. If the threads are tied up so neatly and predictably, are we supposed to still believe that this film mirrors the real lives of transgenders? What I kept wondering all this time was what the objective of the film really is. As a one-liner, it can be about the daily troubles of a transgender. But as a film, it is all over the place without cohesion. As Maarit, Leea Klemola is stunningly believable as she is both alienating and endearing. But this multi-level talented artist deserved a script that gave more significance to Maarit as a person, instead of just secluding the gender issue.


film notes: iceman (1984) by fred schepisi

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