Maarit (Leea Klemola) has transitioned from male to female and successfully managed to continue her life living as a woman. Working as a cleaner in a therapist’s office Maarit comes across Sami (Peter Franzen), a man in an unhappy marriage who she is instantly drawn to. When Sami reveals he is looking for help Maarit pretends she is a therapist to get close to him. As she learns more about his marital problems, Maarit falls in love with Sami and she soon realises the attraction may run both ways.
Open Up To Me is the latest film from writer/director Simon Halinen. It explores the attitudes of society towards transgender people and gives you a window into the constant battle that people like Maarit face. Refreshingly she is upfront with Sami when they first meet in terms of her past as a man and when that doesn’t put him off that gives her hope that something may happen between them. Sami meanwhile battles with his feelings for Maarit and the breakdown of his relationship with his wife. What he isn’t aware of is that his wife is as bored and frustrated by their relationship as he is and his head isn’t the only one being turned by something more exciting.
Running alongside the main storyline there’s a sub-plot involving Maarit’s daughter and ex-wife and a police investigation that implicates Maarit in the suicide of a young teenager struggling with his sexuality. Those plots serve to round out Maarit’s character and contrast starkly with the budding romance she has with Sami.
What Open Up To Me does so well is looks at the way transgender people are perceived and the way society reacts to them. When Sami and Maarit start to give in to their attraction the path of course is anything but smooth. Whilst Maarit is quite keen to let herself get carried away by the handsome Sami, he is comfortable to be with her but only when no one can see them. That issue is something that recurs throughout the movie and builds to a rather shocking climax.
Leea Klemola is absolutely wonderful as Maarit. She plays the character with such restraint and sensitivity. You can’t help but feel for her and when things start to look rosy for her and Sami you root for it all to work out. She is matched by a fantastic performance from the dashing Peter Franzen as Sami who brings his conflict to the fore and expresses it with impressive realism. The chemistry between the two actors lights up the screen and you really invest in their relationship.
Open Up To Me is a well-written and well-directed film that brings home the realities of how hard it is to be transgender and try to lead a ‘normal’ life. The film draws you in thanks to Halinen’s superb direction and the performances of Klemola and Franzen really escalates the whole affair. Open Up To Me is a really affecting film that we recommend you check out.
Open Up To Me can be watched at www.filmdoo.com/films/