François Ozon means to grab your attention from the very first frame of his movie, which shows a young bride in a wedding dress lying in a coffin surrounded by sobbing mourners. Standing besides David her husband is Claire who has been Laura’s best friend since childhood and she finishes her emotional eulogy by promising to look after Laura’s baby and her husband too.
In the weeks that follow Claire is too distraught over the loss that she resists checking up on her new charges. When she does finally pop in to their nearby house one day without warning, she is totally unprepared for what she finds. Sitting on the couch is a blond woman who from the back is a dead ringer for Laura, but when she turns around Claire is confronted by the sight of David dressed head to toe as a woman. Both of them are startled by the confrontation especially Claire who quickly departs after denouncing David as a pervert.
However she is intrigued enough to want to go back and learn more about his long-standing cross-dressing habit. He explains that he is not gay but that he has always enjoyed dressing up in women’s clothes and something that he did with his wife’s knowledge.
When Virginie and Claire get really tight it leads to a suggestion of sexual attraction, which muddies the water somewhat. Virginie has fallen in love with his late wife’s best friend, but it seems however that Claire has been drawn in looking for a substitute for her Laura who she so pines for .
In one of his best ever performances, one of France’s finest contemporary actors Romain Duris totally nails David/Virginie. He’s lost even more weight which suits all the chic clothing he gets to dress up in, but much more important than that he captures the feminine aspect of his character so perfectly without even a hint of campness that could so easily have reduced Virginie to a caricature. He is a sheer joy to watch.
Ozon has always been a great one to play with different sexual and gender identities and he has a wonderful time with this story making Virginie aka David ultra feminine right down to her flouncy lingerie, whereas Claire is so often in trousers that her husband is visibly shocked on the rare occasion she puts a dress on. It is a real treat.
P.S. The movie has been adapted from a story by British crime writer Ruth Rendall who died 10 days ago aged 85.