From Denmark, this morally complex drama is urgent and provocative even if the story is full of lapses that make it feel oddly implausible. It's a reteaming of director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, whose breakout 2004 film Brothers (remade in 2009 with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire) had similar problems: a high-concept premise that makes the dilemma more important than plot coherence.
Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau returns home to Denmark to star in the film. He plays Andreas, a detective who is horrified when he and his partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) find badly neglected infant Sofus in the home of lowlife ex-con Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his junkie girlfriend Sanne (Lykke May Anderson). But there's no legal way to remove the baby from his parents. This hits Andreas especially hard since his son Alexander is the same age and his wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie) is struggling emotionally with motherhood. Then Alexander dies unexpectedly and Andreas hatches a plan: he swaps the dead Alexander for the abused Sofus. Obviously both of the mothers notice this immediately, but Anna accepts it and no one will listen to Sanne's outcry. And Tristan is preoccupied with trying to cover up what he thinks is his son's death.
Bier and Jensen work diligently to set up this premise, with details that try to address each aspect of the story, but it simply never holds water. For example, we never believe that Andreas' action is something any caring husband would do, especially one who works for the police. Or that Anna and Simon would go along with it. So as the story becomes increasingly entangled, everything begins to feel like it's heading for the only conclusion possible. Thankfully, Bier and Jensen are skilled enough to make all of this compelling, challenging the audience to confront each decision the characters make and consider the moral repercussions of everything they do.
Continue reading: A Second Chance Review
While out one evening with his doting girlfriend Simone (Maria Bonnevie), capricious photographer Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) spies a striking young woman on a train platform and immediately ditches his companion to follow the unknown beauty. Tracking her to a bar and striking up a conversation, he learns that the woman's name is Aimee, and that she's in town for her husband August's (Krister Henriksson) book signing. After coyly discussing a mutual desire to escape their unfulfilling lives, the two head back to Aimee's hotel room for a night of intense lovemaking. Yet since Aimee, like Simone, is portrayed by actress Maria Bonnevie, it's apparent that not everything about this encounter is as it seems, a fact confirmed when, the next morning, Alex returns home to find that his apartment no longer exists and no one - not his landlady, his friend, his father, nor Simone - remembers him. Has Alex's newfound love for Simone (who now plans to leave her needy but emotionally withdrawn spouse) magically made the rest of his life's relationships void? Is Aimee a symbolic representation of the qualities Alex finds lacking in Simone? Is the entire film merely the distraught fictional storyline of the scorned August's book?
Continue reading: Reconstruction Review
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