I can't boast that I have seen very many gay or lesbian or transvestite films but I have yet to see a film dealing with such themes the way François Ozon does in Une Novelle Amie (A New Girlfriend) 2014. Adapted from a novel by Ruth Rendell of the same name, Ozon has transformed it into a romantic comedy with touching moments which seem to suggest a new kind of gender complexity: a man who likes to dress as a woman but still makes love with another woman as a man and a woman who loves a man as a woman! How gender roles can be rendered really complicated by biology!
The film has a most unusual beginning: we see a female body being made up and dressed as if for a wedding but it turns out that in fact, it's for a funeral at which the funeral-bride's best childhood friend Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) recounts how they became the best of friends since age 7, when they had a blood pact at a neighborhood wood in which they declared their friendship will be "for life". Claire is now happily married to Gilles (Raphaël Personnaz) and her best friend was Laura (Isild Le Besco) whose widow is David (Romain Duris) As the film develops, we see how after the funeral, Claire could not concentrate on her work at the office and decided to take a break during which she visited Laura's house to see how David was doing. To her surprise, when she arrives, she finds David dressed as a woman with wig, nail polish and all, feeding their 6 month's old baby Lucie. Embarrassed, David explains that he has had this urge to dress as a woman since infancy but when he's with a woman he loves, he doesn't feel the urge to do so but even if he does so, he has never once gone into the street as a woman. Now that Laura is gone, the urge has come back and he asks her not to tell anyone. Claire promises.
Claire continues to help David and a close relation develops. She helps David appear in public dressed as a woman and spends a weekend at his country home where Claire shows him the heart enclosing the name of Laura and hers on a tree trunk at David's estate. Gilles finds out about their weekend rendezvous because David's mother calls and asks for Claire during that weekend. Claire then explains to GillesDavid's unusual need and assures him that there's nothing between them. Gilles feels more comfortable and invites David to have dinner together and even helps to look after Lucie, the experience of which makes him suggest to Claire to have their own.
Everything seems fine until David has an accident on a busy street as a woman as a result of which he's turned into a human vegetable. David's father sheepishly tells Claire at the hospital bedsidethat at the time of the accident, his son was dressed as a woman. Claire feigns surprise. To help revive David, she first brings Lucie to the hospital and whispers in his ears that she is Claire with Lucie. David's eyelids flicker for a few seconds and then he reverts into coma. It isn't until later, when Claire addresses him as Virginia and sings a song written by a man who has transformed himself into a woman and who sings that he/she is not happy until he becomes a women, a song which both of them heard together earlier at a cabaret, when tears fell from David's eyes, that he finally wakes up. When the film ends, we see a pregnant Claire and Virginia, hand in hand, picking up the 7-year-old Lucie after class. We see how Lucie seems perfectly comfortable with them.
Ozon always tries to examine human relations under all sorts of situations in which partly through chance and partly through the personality of his characters, they find themselves in the most unpredictable kinds of social and personal situations. Une Novelle Amie is his latest exploration in such a direction. Not only does he introduce some humor into the theme of what form transvestism can take, he shows us some of the most unexpected and unusual effects such a form may have on the male-female relationship and plenty of food for thought.