Just Another Love Story



Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- "Just Another Love Story," a compelling psychological thriller from Danish writer-director Ole Bornedal, wins style and design points but is weak on logic.

Nevertheless, that style -- self-confident, smart, keenly observant -- pulls you into a slick and somewhat disturbing film noir. The film certainly is playable in North American and European art houses, even though it ends on a chilly note that some might find off-putting.

Bornedal makes no bones about borrowing from here and there, and one such borrowing comes from "Sunset Boulevard," where the corpse of a crime victim narrates his fatal tale.

The man lying quite dead on a sidewalk one rainy night is Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen), estranged husband of Mette (Charlotte Fich), who the next moment comes moving into the frame, screaming. How Jonas ended up dead involves a love story. Of sorts.

Julia (Rebecka Hemse) comes into Jonas' life with a bang. Actually worse than a bang as the distracted woman, on a cell phone, swipes her rental car against Jonas' beater, which has stalled again on a road outside of Copenhagen. She then crashes head-on with an oncoming vehicle, her car flips over and she winds up in a coma in a hospital.

Feeling unreasonably guilty, Jonas sneaks into Julia's hospital room, where her family mistakes him for Sebastian, a new boyfriend she acquired on a recent trip to Southeast Asia. Jonas doesn't bother to correct them. When Julia awakens, conveniently suffering from amnesia and near blindness, she accepts him as Sebastian, too.

Jonas happens to work as a photographer of crime scenes, so a police colleague, Frank (Dejan Cukic), checks on this Sebastian fellow. Another dramatic convenience: Frank learns that Sebastian, a low-life though charming smuggler, died in Hanoi.

Pretty soon, Jonas is leading an implausible double life: a loving and compassionate Sebastian to Julia and her wealthy family and a distracted and miserable Jonas to his own family. Jonas already was in the midst of one of those midlife crises that are staples in Scandinavian cinema, where the hero just doesn't like the life he leads and wants a completely different one. So he gets his wish.

Julia's recovery is miraculous, the two fall into something resembling love, her family adores Sebastian, and she is pregnant. So who is that guy with his face wrapped in bandages like the Invisible Man, always lurking around her room? How did Julia get pregnant before she and Jonas had their first rendezvous in the hospital bed? If you're thinking that this Sebastian fellow (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) might not be dead after all, you really don't have another choice.

Bornedal builds his suspense neatly, upping the emotional ante every so often with a new twist and fully exploiting exquisite cinematography by Dan Laustsen in Denmark and Cambodia and a fine guitar-based score by Joachim Holbek. Irony is writ large everywhere as the film dispassionately charts the new life and the seemingly inevitable demise of Jonas/Sebastian, who falls deeper and deeper into a self-made quagmire.

The climax is genuinely suspenseful, menacing and nerve-racking. You might not buy all the elements -- it's a little too neat, too engineered. But then, the same can be said for the entire movie.

Thura Film
Screenwriter-director: Ole Bornedal
Producer: Michael Obel
Director of photography: Dan Laustsen
Production designer: Anders Engelbrecht
Music: Joachim Holbek
Editor: Anders Villadsen
Jonas: Anders W. Berthelsen
Julia: Rebecka Hemse
Sebastian: Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Mette: Charlotte Fich
Frank: Dejan Cukic
Poul: Karsten Jansfort
Julia's Father: Bent Mejding
Running time -- 107 minutes
No MPAA rating