Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sundance with Abe: Queen of Hearts

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Queen of Hearts
Directed by May el-Toukhy
World Dramatic Competition

There are a number of films that deal with incest, a socially unacceptable practice that usually involves some sort of coercion and, in addition to mental issues, can present health risks if such a union leads to a pregnancy. While this concept is almost universally decried as problematic, and portrayed that way on screen, a romantic or sexual relationship between people who aren’t actually related but instead are linked by a remarriage or adoption are more complicated. As a result, they can be the subject of films with a comedic slant, though it’s rare that anything undisclosed and secretive will ever end well given the inevitability of it becoming public knowledge.

Anne (Trine Dyrholm) lives in Denmark with her husband Peter (Magnus Krepper) and her two young daughters. When Peter’s son from his first marriage, Gustav (Gustav Lindh), comes to stay with them, he exhibits rebellious behavior that makes Peter question whether he should instead be sent to boarding school. Despite being a successful lawyer with a loving family, Anne yearns for something more, which she finds in Gustav, and the two begin an illicit sexual relationship, one that makes Gustav more cooperative and Anne feeling fresher and more fulfilled than she has in a long time.

This is a distinctly European film, one that casually includes explicit content in its sex scenes and presents its subject matter in a relatively straightforward manner. What is captured most is the passion that exists between Anne and Gustav, temporarily causing them to forget the harm that they will both do to the man that they each love most should he ever find out. Peter is not a terribly appealing or dynamic personality, perfectly likeable but lacking a certain energy or individuality that might allow even the initial personal connection that leads to the tryst between his wife and his son.

The best reason to see this film is Dyrholm, who has starred in films like “In a Better World” and “Love Is All You Need,” delivering a completely different English-language performance in last year’s “Nico, 1988.” Here, she makes Anne a believable and relatable protagonist who has much more of an idea of what she’s doing than she indicates, earning the film’s title as a descriptor. Lindh also impresses opposite him, delivering an equally guarded but appropriately less mature turn. This film’s narrative drags on a good deal longer than it should, starting from an interesting place but likely losing audience interest towards the end of its 127-minute runtime.


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