reviewed by Audy Elliott
Sweetly reckless, haunting, mesmerizing, terse, lovelorn, possessive, grounded, rewarding, sarcastic
Wonderful color template of the city
The palpable chemistry between the leads (Gethin Anthony and Federikke Dahl Hansen)
Mystery/journey of the plot
Excellent characterizations of british actors playing American
Sensational lead performance of newcomer Federikke Dahl Hansen
Pacing was pushed aggressively in the beginning
At times stilted amateurish acting
Direction at times could use some more deft skill
WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
After weeks of traveling through Europe, the immature William (Gethin Anthony, Game of Thrones) finds himself at a crossroads in Copenhagen. Not just another beautiful European city, Copenhagen is also the birthplace of his father. When William meets pretty local girl Effy (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), they set off on an adventure to find his grandfather. Effy's mix of youthful exuberance and wisdom challenges William like no woman ever has. As the attraction builds and William finds himself truly connecting with someone for the first time in his life, he comes to this realization: that Effy is half is age.
This movie is about a reverse coming of age story of our main character William, and how he is trying to cope with the feeling of personal loneliness and loss. William is met with adversity - his father wasn’t ideal in rearing him, his best friend leaves him on a fling with a woman to get married, and he is perpetually alone, except when greasily trying to smooth line his way to a dumb girl’s neckline. Played by Game of Thrones actor Gethin Anthony, William comes into our lives, smug, arrogant with the right amount of metrosexual beard envy on his face, who is overall, not making any amends of ingratiating himself to the customs and culture of Denmark. What was supposed to be a vacation with his best friend Jeremy (Sabastien Armesto, Anonymous) to see the country, and also to reconcile family matters, doesn’t play out well and ends up blowing dust in his face. What’s first apparent when starting out with William, is that he is played with a certain unlikable surliness in refusing to grow up, but there is something redeeming in him, something that doesn’t forcibly scream leading man, but you stay with him: one part, we have no choice and the other is the actor’s convincing portrayal of William masking up this Jersey Shore bravado, in order to hide his true insecurities. For the duration of the movie, he doesn’t want to be himself – he is ashamed of who he really is. He tells people he is “Canadian” as if saying “American” is equivalent to saying you have the Ebola Virus.
It’s unmistakably clear, that William is shaped by the missing love withheld from his father. Pictures in the movie show the father (as a little boy in Copenhagen) with his hands crossed, and William with Effy, recreates these moments by visiting the same aforementioned sites, and taking a picture where, the viewer can see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the same miserable tree. It first comes across brief, too cool, absent of any vulnerability whatsoever, and a little foolish in a Mark Wahlberg “V-neck” t-shirt kind of way. Effy comes out of nowhere to rescue William, and us, is first presented as no one. She works at a café that William annoyingly sits his ass down to decipher the Danish notes on the back of the pictures as if he is dissecting the Dothraki. She walks up to serve him, spills coffee, and in what comes across as a manufactured rom-com meet cute, is fully explained as the movie warmly progresses – she is there on an high school internship, and is completely inexperienced in the work force, but immediately exudes a peach faced, old soul when it comes to an emotional proximity to William’s alpha guy pithy circumference. What we don’t know at that time is she is much younger than the first generation Ipod, we just know she is exactly what William not only needs to help him find his way through Copenhagen, but also through life. She is “14 going on 15,” Ms. Von Trapp, but he is the one that needs to grow up.
Effy, played by unknown Danish actress Federikke Dahl Hansen, exhibits a sweet melancholy disposition that is brave, warm and tender, which only grows on you as it grows on William. She always has her hair tied up in a messy, adolescent bun, as if to come across more mature to anyone that cares. Her insecurity is played up by her lack of age, and like William, there is a desire, a bond between them of mutual absent paternal love that extracts the very vulnerability that Effy embraces, but William struggles with, gnawing at his masculine ego. She is his rock. She touches his knee, when William receives, minor, but bad news. She awkwardly tries to find ways to be accepted by him, but all in an honest, albeit excruciating adolescent nature. She wants to be passionately kissed, but only knows how to peck on someone’s cheek. It’s derived from her fantasies of being with an older man, but in a genuine manner where she is truly giving her heart to William. The director isn’t interested in daddy issues, as much as he is in establishing a tension of forbidden love in the most honest, most truest, non-pedophilia way possible. As much as William is being traditionally played as the jerk here, he never breaks that line, where we are dealing with risqué, tawdry, lolita driven masculine fantasies and fetishist themes. He is not obsessed with Effy, say like Kevin Spacey over Mena Suvari in American Beauty. There is clear attraction from William’s point of view, and at first, he wouldn’t hesitate to conquer Effy. He is too hung up in his own frustrations to ever act upon it. In moments where the force of both characters attraction boils, William allows himself to look at Effy in the way she was always wanting to be looked at by him. However, once he finds out her true age, all bets are off. This is when you see William as a good guy come through. He is upset, he is taken aback, but he is never a deviant.
The movie’s cinematography really captures the beauty, and real tangibility of the city and the feel of what director Mark Raso is trying to attain. Buildings are lined with warm orange exteriors and cool sun drenched skies that bounce off the pavement reflecting a mood into the camera, that no matter how the film will end, the story will find its way to cinematic gratification. The mood is always treated with a light wonderful color, bouncing casually from one scene onto the next. As William is navigating simultaneously through Denmark and Effy’s admirations, there is a breezy day-glo palette to keep the film’s emotional temperature from getting too thick or heavy, to where it takes away the simplicity and gentleness the main leads had developed. It was this touch that the movie was at its most confident with Raso, who for a newcomer, showed a sensitive touch required for independent films. If mishandled, it would have come off cheaper and nominal, too hard, and it would have been a glorified “Made for TV” movie. Under Raso’s leadership, Copenhagen won Best Picture at both Grand Juries of the Florida Film Festival and the Gasparilla International Film Festivals. They’re not Venice and Cannes, but it’s a testament to Raso and his Ivy League filmmaking skill
The movie at times would get stilted in certain scenes, where the rhythm would suffer, but only slightly. For a first time filmmaker, Raso got a lot right in directing a feeling of forlornness, mixed with sarcasm that wouldn’t be played for cheap guffaws, but for agitation. It would come across as a timing issue, as a drop off in momentum, but never to the point where it glaringly disrupted the romantic tension. His ability will only get better in time. There is so much promise in this film and the way Raso presents it, that you will like to see what he can do with a studio behind him for his next feature – if that is what he wants to do. He had a handle on when to push William and Effy to intimacy, but also knowing not to ruin the wonderful charm of Effy, by having both characters “cross the line” for the sake of a cheap, racy scene in order to simply provoke like Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color. A lesser or more reckless director probably wouldn’t show the kind of restraint that Raso demonstrated. The acting overall, was at times amateurish in some moments where it seemed to scream of just actors finding themselves in the material. The leads were convincing, but during certain moments, they would leave some professional savvy off the table. Again, it’s not detrimental to the film overall and at times especially with Dahl Hansen it worked in the movie’s favor. When watching this film, I got an easy likable chemistry between the leads that took me back to the first time I saw Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. In comparison to Before Sunrise, both film’s syntax is focusing on two people that are kindred spirits - possible soul mates, but have to discover who the other person is, while still trying to figure themselves out as they traverse under flirtatious circumstances in a beautiful European city. That is where the similarities end between both movies. Linklater's is a skillful masterpiece, and focuses over varying theoretical themes, with matching textured dialogue and delivery – Copenhagen, in contrast is whimsically bratty, and immature, but with that comes an honest character arc from both leads.
Raso, also puts acute challenges in the plot to keep your attention. This movie, sight unseen may come across as a typical romance star crossed lovers film, with sickening lines and trite character development with a “genre trope-ish” nature that is immediately off-putting. This movie to a great extent doesn’t cater to that. It’s treated through William’s machismo misunderstanding that exists so you don’t get bombarded with an over pour of love sappiness at the expense, of him trying to find his grandfather, while also reconciling with his best friend and ultimately finding himself. There is a heartbreaking destiny between him and Effy that overcomes any romantic runaway cliché helping Copenhagen to escape the easy reachable conclusion, to exist in its own captivity without having the viewer feel cheated.
This scene is the highlight of the movie and perfectly encapsulates what the director is trying to accomplish, and what he actually attained. As you can see, William has a prevailing problem that is twofold: trying to get a hold of his feelings for an underage girl, and also dealing with the return of his sniveling, jilted, weak-willed best friend Jeremy. At this point, Effy’s soulful energy, and soft guidance has influenced William to where he see things, like the pint of warm beer in his hand, half-full. Once Jeremy starts to cry over a woman, punk-assing his way back down to earth, it’s apparent that the director Mark Raso, was telling Jeremy’s story as a criticism that Jeremy’s alternate movie version love affair is the superficial European escapist movie of foolish happiness, when it’s really William and Effy’s relationship that is the more tangible, undeniable and authentic. This scene marks the turning point, in how William can no longer deny his feelings for the much younger, but emotionally bright Effy. As she is singing, Raso, acutely puts a long red and back dropped curtain, flowing down to the floor, that plays on implicit romantic denotation. Effy doesn’t look naïve in love, but possessed and sensual, knowing what she wants, and comes across mature enough and William can no longer deny what his heart is telling him. You can see if in his face and Effy’s – love has manifested even though it’s not acted upon.
I came away with this movie completely enthralled by the character of Effy and how she is able to reach out to William and change his outlook on life and himself. This is a coming of age love story, but not in the most obvious of ways, and because of that, the movie is an independent dynamo of deep connections between the leads, and the films intended, and convincing unrequited love. Outside of that, there is a plot, that brings both leads together, and the director never lets go of what is most important, and that is the threat of abuse on Effy’s innocence. There are immediate inferences to Lost in Translation of two people who have an unmitigated connection, but cannot fully realize them, age being one of the reasons, if not, the main reason, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray couldn’t be together. I’m not going to cheat this wonderful movie by going there. Copenhagen stands strong on its own, with an independent reassurance, bright performances, and a drive towards the ending that you really don’t want to see coming. Unlike Lost in Translation, there is a hopefulness to this movie, an idealism that is as infectious as Effy’s selflessness and with that, we too, like William, are better off at the end, than coming in at the beginning.
3.5 out of 4