I’m torn with this one. I appreciated the story it told, but for me, the pacing was often dragging too much for the movie to be enjoyable. I found myself repeatedly to be bored and impatient with the pace the story was unfolding. I wanted there to be more dramatic tension and open conflicts than what a naturalistic portrayal the movie was going for could allow. It’s a very mixed bag, as I said. On a conceptual level, there were a lot things that I was liked. It was mainly the slow presentation that tended to leave me a bit cold. It’s always a bit frustrating to find a movie you want to like but for whatever reason can’t.
One thing that keeps bugging me is the twist relating the Jacob’s daughter. I found it a bit peculiar to suddenly reveal her husband to be cheating. It doesn’t really feel like it belongs to the story because in the big picture it’s a very minor plot point that is then very quickly and unceremoniously dropped and not mentioned again. From a storytelling POV, I get that it was a very convenient spring board to turn the daughter’s world upside down, so Jacob would have a stronger reason to stay in Denmark rather than just refuse Jørgen’s offer. But it doesn’t make it better. Maybe it was meant to parallel Jacob’s own infidelity in the past, making him realize that family was important? Could be, but Jacob doesn’t to my recollection, really reflect upon it.
But let’s focus on the positive, instead of just complaining. Mads Mikkelsen was, as usual, great and his stoic, stiff face added a lot of interesting subtlety to Jacob’s character. One of the things I was surprised by was how well written the story is. The basic idea behind the story ends up being relatively simple, but the way it explores that premise is pretty broad and complex, so much so that I was frankly blown by how well it was executed. For example the story goes to great lengths to make you initially very suspicious of certain characters, even making you subtly dislike them, only to pull the carpet from under you by delivering a sudden an unexpected twist that forces you to reevaluate your entire stance regarding them, and to get you to perceive their actions in more favorable light now that you have the proper context for their behavior. And it manages to do all this with uncanny elegance that you (or at least I didn’t) don’t really see the twists coming. It’s that type of thing that takes a frustrating movie, and makes it worth your time, even if you still end up having issues with it.