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Stars: Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen, Julie Agnete Vang, Fares Fares, Magnus Millang, Anne Gry Henningsen
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
The central storyline of this enjoyable domestic black comedy begins when staid college lecturer Ulrich Thomsen unexpectedly inherits a large house in suburban Copenhagen in the 1970s from his late father (“We haven’t spoken since I was 22”) and is then persuaded by his television newsreader wife Trine Dyrholm (“I’m bored Erik. I need a change”) to turn the mansion into a commune in order to enter into the trendy zeitgeist of the period.
What follows – a witty blend of domestic drama, black comedy and unexpectedly moving sequences – might simply have resembled a far-better-than-usual slice of life from an upmarket small screen soap opera: Fortunately, however, thanks to the strong character-driven screenplay by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm (based on the former’s stage play of the same name), ideal casting and direction that concentrates to excellent effect on a gallery of fine performances, there is nothing stagey about the film.
Soon the commune, whose members include Thomsen and Dryholm’s i 14-year-old daughter, Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen and a cluster of enjoyably assorted characters including a penniless young woman, a cheerful drunk and a young boy whose illness triggers genuinely moving and emotional reactions from the ‘wild bunch’, is established.
His new environment prompts Thomsen into loosening up, begin an affair with 24-year-old student Helene Reingaard Neumann and then move her in to live in the commune, inevitably damaging his relationship with his wife whose initial acceptance of the situation deteriorates…
Performances are spot on, as are the various character developments (Hansen begins an affair with a another (older) teenager and relationships in the commune begin to grate). I particularly enjoyed the commune meeting where the “committee’ started to argue over who had took a beer without making a record of the drink they had taken from the commune’s ‘stock’.
Vinterberg’s reworking of his play, neatly balancing credible drama with amusing wit, is effectively cinematic and, like his 1998 classic Festen, a genuine pleasure to watch.
Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands 2016. UK Distributor: Curzon/Artificial Eye. Colour.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.
Review date: 30 Jul 2016