Orphanage worker Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) returns to Copenhagen to confront his past in this rich, harrowing and transformative family drama directed by Susanne Bier (Open Hearts).
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Danish director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen return with one of the richest and most satisfying family dramas of the year. This strikingly mature exploration of fate, loss and familial ties was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, but its proper place is at the end of Bier and Jensen’s trilogy of emotional-disaster films, along with Open Hearts and Brothers. All three films deal with emotionally and psychologically dense material, grey areas and moral ambiguity – and all three films, just like life, will break your heart. Danish exile Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen, last seen crying crimson tears as the villain in Casino Royale) runs an orphanage in India, lavishing what love he can spare on one of its inmates, an eight-year-old boy named Pramod. Saintly, yes, but there’s a sense that Jacob’s missionary zeal masks various personal demons. When he is invited back to Copenhagen to meet a billionaire hotelier who hints that he might bankroll the orphanage, it turns out Jacob is a man with secrets. Jørgen, the boorish and boozy billionaire (Rolf Lassgård) has an agenda of his own; he introduces Jacob to his beautiful wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), invites him to his daughter’s wedding, and appears to protract Jacob’s visit with mysterious new afterthoughts and provisos.
“By the [conclusion of the film], his encounter with Jørgen has transformed his life, replacing the responsibilities he had taken on willingly with others he never imagined, and believed he had escaped. Life is like that, and so is Susanne Bier’s tragic yet optimistic film, an experience you shouldn’t miss.” — Andrew O’Hehir, salon.com