By Rich Cline | February 20, 2004

First-time Danish director Olesen uses the Mike Leigh method of creating a film through improvisation workshops, and the result is certainly interesting, even if it never quite comes together. It centers on the unexpected death of a family matriarch and the reactions of her husband John (Kiil), who feels adrift without her, and their three children. Marianne (Rich) finds meaning by filling the gap, taking care of Dad. Brother Tom (Prip) is also coping with pressure from his wife (Weith) to spend more time at home. Slightly mad artist sister Eva (Faurschou), struggling with her emotional response to Mom’s death, decides to air her unspeakable suspicions. And John’s brother (Christensen) is also coping with serious trouble on the homefront.
The basic idea is that we can talk about all our minor mishaps, but not the really important things in life. And this theme is the best aspect of the film. The problem is that it’s far too carefully constructed in every sense–dialog, characters, situations. Despite giving it a natural vibe, director Olesen never creates anything remotely authentic. This makes it impossible for the drama or emotion to ever touch us meaningfully. Performances feel over-improvised–like the actors wanted to use all of their quirky mannerisms to show how unreasonable their characters are. Only Christensen’s brother-in-pain character emerges with any truthfulness; his subtle acting stands out from the other showboaters. But the whole film is just too tidy, planned, showy and clever. At the end, when the characters start actually dealing with their issues, the film begins to come together, but by then it’s too late.

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