Queen of Hearts

‘Queen of Hearts’ was Denmark’s entry for the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd annual Academy Awards.

‘COME HOME’ (Topic)

Clocking in at three episodes, “Come Home” packs more of an emotional punch and insightful view of relationships than most dramas achieve in several seasons. Christopher Eccleston stars as Greg Farrell, a single father in Ireland who struggles to raise his three children against the shadow left on the family by his wife, Marie (Paula Malcomson), who walked out on the family the year before.

No one knows why Marie left her children behind other than vague, desperate-sounding explanations that hint at the dark depths of unhappiness that exist within her, but Greg’s a straightforward guy who does his best to deal with the fallout of her departure, devoting himself to his kids. Things begin to change, though, when he becomes involved with Brenna (Kerri Quinn), whose abusive domestic situation causes Greg to invite her and her son to come live with them for safety reasons after barely beginning to date.

That causes a disruption within the house, but it also coincides with Marie’s reappearance in the family’s life in a few ways, and Greg is put in a position where he has to juggle Brenna’s needs with his children’s, while also trying to find the right balance of caring for himself and understanding how what he thinks is good for him might not be the best for his children.

At the same time, Greg has to decipher just how to protect his kids against more trauma through their relationship with their mother — or whether he should when faced with the realization that the crumbling of his family might not have been exactly as he thought it had been.

It’s a lot to pack into three episodes, but there’s no feeling of taking shortcuts or being rushed. Care is taken with each of the characters to bring them to life and each character is treated fully, with sympathy offered for their struggles but honesty applied to their flaws. And despite the dark areas the series dives into, its conclusion is an admirable one of hope that doesn’t conflict at all with the events that lead up to it.

‘QUEEN OF HEARTS’ (Mubi)

I had only previously encountered Danish/Egyptian director May el-Thouky’s work on episodes of the exceptional dramas, “The Legacy” and “Ride Upon the Storm,” but with this Best Film Award winner from the Danish Film Academy exceeded my expectations built from those.

“Queen of Hearts” introduces us to Anna (Trine Dyrholm), a lawyer in the middle of a rape case, where the victim is having second thoughts about moving forward. Anna and her husband, Peter (Magnus Krepper), live an idyllic, affluent life — Peter is a doctor — with two daughters. Trouble arrives in the form of Peter’s teenage son from his previous marriage, Gustav (Gustav Lindh), who’s disciplinary problems in school have caused him to be kicked out and gotten the police involved. Sent from Sweden to live with his father, he has a difficult transition into the family, but finally settles in after conflict with Anna.

However, he and Anna’s proximity to one another continues as a competition for domination in other ways and it results in Anna’s seduction of Gustav. Already becoming displaced from her own personal life and at odds with her professional life, Anna is seizing control in the one place that she can find it. But her solution sends her on a spiral of morality that sends her further into the depths a person can stoop to in order to maintain their grasp on their autonomy to the point of destructive selfishness.

“Queen of Hearts” is a disturbing movie, but a compelling one that enters into forbidden realms credibly and without selling a fantasy while doing so. What is captured is the summation of destructiveness, how it piles up in peoples’ lives and crashes down around them at a certain point, and manifests in ugly deeds designed to hurt, no matter how one might try to convince themselves otherwise. As usual, Dyrholm turns in a stunning, honest performance that gets to the root of a character trying to not reveal herself.