Director: Ole Bornedal
Starring: Anders W. Berthelsen – Jonas; Rebecka Hemse – Julia; Charlotte Fich – Mette
‘Beautiful women and a mystery. Isn’t that how all film noirs begin?’ This observation, made early on by our leading man’s confident, not-so-subtly clues us in on that which we are about to see. And although in itself it is more thriller than mystery, it certainly manages to more than hold its own in the film noir genre. The 2007 creation of Danish writer/director Ole Bornedal – due for DVD release in the UK this week – Just Another Love Story is a smartly made, well acted, and suspenseful piece, which combines an involving plot with an enjoyably dark sense of humour.
The aforementioned leading man is Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen), a crime-scene photographer who lives a pleasant if sanitised IKEA-esque lifestyle with his wife Mette (Charlotte Fich) and their two children. A cruel twist of fate sees the family witness to an horrific car accident that Jonas feels responsible for, and as such he takes it upon himself to visit the survivor – a young woman named Julia (Rebecka Hemse) – posing as her boyfriend: a ruse that would almost certainly be foiled were Julia not rendered almost entirely blind and amnesic by the collision. Our man is rather taken by the initially comatose victim, and as she comes around a connection develops between the two – although, naturally, with Jonas continuing this identity façade all along. As one might imagine in such a situation – if one does often imagine a situation in which a married Danish photographer falls in love with a comatose girl with amnesia – complications arise, especially when doubts start to surface about the status of the real boyfriend, Sebastian, who had initially been presumed dead.
If this all sounds slightly complicated, then it’s because it is. Or at least it is when one factors in that the tale is told with a fractured timeline and partially from hazy flashbacks, not to mention the fact that it is introduced by Jonas himself as he lays dying on a sidewalk. However, there is never a sense of being lost in the tale any more than the director wishes, and any sense of confusion only contributes to the effect of the plot’s unraveling as it’s told. In fact, large swathes of the film are far more linear: tracking the protagonist as his newfound relationship develops, and as he wrestles between his old life and the new. This dichotomy works well as one feels that, despite his misgivings, Jonas’s pre-existing life is a happy one. His marital relationship is subtly and effectively portrayed, and the conflict he endures is one which, although arisen from peculiar circumstances, echoes a prevalent reality in its intelligent presentation.
Bornedal’s script is excellently brought to life by performances which are never less than solid. Berthelsen’s turn, in a demanding role, is understated but intense, and capably conveys the ceaseless emotional turmoil which his character undergoes from start to finish. Hemse is less stretched by her part, but delivers on what is asked of her, and the support cast, in particular Charlotte Fich as Jonas’s suffering wife Mette, all contribute displays of quality. The chemistry between each role works well, and importantly so.
The movie, particularly during it’s first half, also packs a wickedly humourous streak – one can’t help recalling the likes of Fargo as the cogs of the inevitable disastrous outcome turn and yet the laughs keep coming. This fades as the film enters thriller territory more and more towards its denouement, but this is no criticism as the captivating outcome demands a shift in tone.
It must be said that some of the scenes feel rather contrived, particularly in the early stages of Jonas and Julia’s relationship, and that the plot mechanics are occasionally rather too transparent. But these things do little to sour the overall experience, which is that of an intelligent and entertaining film that admirably delivers on its not insignificant goals. The ironically used title could have set it up for a fall however, in the end, Just Another Love Story is anything but.