Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Copenhagen (2013)

Director: Mark Raso

Writer: Mark Raso

Composer: Agatha Kaspar

Starring: Gethin Anthony, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, Tamzin Merchant, Olivia Grant, Sebastian Armesto, Mille Dinesen, Baard Owe, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Julie Christiansen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When the girl of your dreams is half your age, it's time to grow up.

Plot: William (Anthony), a 28 year old lost in his angry adolescence, is an American in Copenhagen, Denmark searching for his grandfather he's never met to deliver a letter his recently deceased absent father wrote at age 8 which he never sent.  Not knowing the language, he asks Effy (Hansen), a waitress at a coffee shop, to translate the letter and help him find the address.  What follows is an adventurous day as they discover a secret about William's grandfather, photos of his young father and each other.  The thing is, she's only 14 years old.  Within a very brief time, William moves over to adulthood and discovers much more about himself through Effy and his life is changed forever.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Sundance Film Festival 2014

This film is in competition at Slamdance, a film festival that runs along side Sundance in Park City.  Sundance is a celebration of independent films while Slamdance takes the independent spirit and presents it in a less-filtered environment, encouraging more-with-less (budget wise) and experimentation.  Holy shit-filled hand grenades, Batman!  The entire cast and crew are to be congratulated for making such a beautiful film filled with love and quality at every turn.  Writer/director Mark Raso has crafted an unconventional love story that shouldn't offend anyone if you give yourself to the picture and to the characters.  What's most striking is that it never once feels disingenuous; it holds true to itself until the very end.  No spoilers here but the ending does not compromise anything that was so carefully and quietly set up in the previous hour and a half.

The two leads, Gethin Anthony and Frederikke Dahl Hansen, are fantastic.  They really sell it and Hansen, in particular, is a wonder to watch.  Her subtle performance goes that extra mile so naturally that it's nearly shocking this is only her third feature film.  Keep an eye on her career.  She's got moxy!  I don't know moxy is but whatever it is, she's definitely got it.  But seriously, I think I could have fallen in love with Effy, too, only it would be even more gross for someone three times her age, much less twice.  Effy is a fun and endearing character that makes it all too easy for William to find himself falling for such a free spirit.  Anthony has the unenviable role of starting out a picture as a right angry asshole (to his best friend and everyone else) and gradually transforming into a warm and caring man.  Between his performance and Raso's script and direction, he pulls it off.

Copenhagen is a beautiful city and Alan Poon's camera captures it with such detail, admiration and allure that it's practically an invitation to be a part of it.  This is his first narrative feature film as cinematographer.  The young talent associated with this picture is staggering and most impressive.  Hell, it's Raso's first feature film as well.  His choices in music for the picture, from the Danish songs to Agatha Kaspar's score (her first feature, too!), only add to the magic of the film.  The song that Effy sings at the karaoke bar is mezmerising and it feels like the grounding moment that solidifies the bond she now has with William.  It's a powerful scene.

Ultimately, the maturity of Raso and his co-conspirators in art and beauty boils down to a pivotal scene near the close of the film.  The choice Raso makes with these two characters hinges on making or breaking the film and he does exactly what was needed to stay true to their story.   I kept waiting for the ball to drop, not for my lack of knowledge about these film makers but because so often there's something that will take you out of a picture that has worked so hard to keep your attention.  It might not ruin it but it dilutes what was carefully constructed.  COPENHAGEN doesn't compromise itself with convention or societal acceptance.  The relationship William and Effy have is told with such grace that it pulls you in, making you care deeply for them, wanting it to somehow work out but knowing that it shouldn't. The moment they kiss for the first time (don't worry, it's nicely done) took me back 30 years to when I had those 'first' moments, moments I haven't felt in a very long time.  That's how much I was drawn into this picture.  How it plays out (the film and not my teenage love life) and how it concludes is a journey you need to take.  Keep this on your radar. Hopefully it will be available to the public by the end of this year.

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