After The Wedding

2006, Movie, R, 119 mins

Review

AFTER THE WEDDING | EFTER BRYLLUPPET
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The founder of a Bombay orphanage attends a stranger's wedding in Copenhagen and discovers that he's the father of the bride, in Danish director Susanne Bier's twisty, Academy Award-nominated melodrama.

Two decades ago, Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) founded an orphanage in Bombay, but now its director warns that without a rapid infusion of cash, their young charges will be back on Bombay's mean streets. Jacob reluctantly goes to Copenhagen to meet with self-made billionaire Jorgen Hansson (Rolf Lassgard), who's thinking about underwriting a charitable institution like Jacob's. Cynical about Jorgen's sudden philanthropic urges, Jacob's suspicions that the trip is a waste of time are confirmed when their brief meeting is perfunctorily wrapped up with an inconclusive commitment and an invitation to the wedding of Jorgen's daughter, Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen), that weekend. Desperate to return to India but unwilling to risk insulting a potential benefactor, Jacob accepts, with life-changing consequences. When he arrives at Jorgen's expansive country estate, he's unexpectedly greeted by a familiar face from his past: Jorgen's wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who, 20 years earlier, was Jacob's girlfriend. And a bigger surprise awaits. During the bride's teary, heartfelt toast to her father, Jacob learns that 20-year-old Anna isn't Jacob's birth daughter — he adopted her when he married Helene. Jacob quickly does the math and is stunned by the obvious conclusion: Helene was pregnant when she left him, and Anna is in fact his own daughter.

Such credulity-testing coincidences usually serve as the premise of overheated melodramas, but Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, who also wrote Bier's excellent Dogme 95 project OPEN HEARTS (2002), have something else in mind. With a third-act twist that outdoes that initial revelation, the film turns out to be a thoughtful exploration of paternity and responsibility. Much of the film's success lies in Bier's sensitive direction, but credit is also due to the fine cast, particularly Mikkelsen. The star of films as diverse as PUSHER II and Jensen's own ADAM'S APPLES, Mikkelsen gained international attention for his villainous turn in the 2006 blockbuster CASINO ROYALE, and his versatility is matched only by the subtlety he brings to every role. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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