The Hatchet goes to the Sundance Film Festival: “Just Another Love Story”

PARK CITY, Utah – “Just Another Love Story” is anything but. I caught the press screening of this film and just before the credits started to roll, the film’s director sitting behind me said, “If any of you do what you usually do and walk out of screenings to see another, I’ll kill you and eat you.” With this sort of wit I knew I’d like the film.

Ole Bornedal directs this Danish tragedy. It is highly stylized, showing three deaths in the beginning of the film that are eventually revisited at the end. This type of temporal breakdown will make fans of “Memento” (1996) shriek for joy.

The story follows a cast of characters that crash together in a car accident. When Jonas (Anders Wodskou Berthelsen) is driving his family along in the country, Julia (Rebecka Hemse) is speeding, and swerves to miss his car and is thrown from her vehicle. Jonas rushes to her aid and grows attached to her. He visits her in the hospital and becomes mistaken for her boyfriend. He chooses her over his wife and demands a divorce.

The layering of characters by Bornedal is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Jonas becomes confused with Sebastian, Julia’s ex-boyfriend. This is all well and good – that is, until the real Sebastian comes back and Julia is left to decipher between real and staged. Add to the mix that she is extremely wealthy, 90 percent blind and has no memory. You will begin to understand the epic undertaking of this up-and-coming director.

This was by far my favorite film of Sundance. It was superior to anything and everything I saw from conventional film, and made the rest of the movies I saw look cheap and emotionally unresponsive.

From what I’ve heard, this was a weak year at Sundance, and I’m not surprised. Ole’s film was hard to watch at parts, but I felt challenged as a viewer, and so must have everyone else in the theater: no one got up and left. It could have been the ominous words of the director that kept people glued to their seats, but I think it was the story. How dare he call this “Just Another Love Story” when he knows fully well it’s original and thought-provoking.

One scene in particular had my blood aching the same way Javier Bardem did in “No Country for Old Men” (2007). The real Sebastian comes back and pretends he is an old friend, assuming Jonas’ name and identity while talking about the way Sebastian (whom Jonas is impersonating) used to be – unveiling to Julia the essence of her in-disguise boyfriend. Impersonating Jonas, he then proceeds to tell Julia that her hubby Sebastian used to deliver drugs for diamonds in Thailand; feeding her woman’s intuition that something is amiss. A gun is pulled, and drama ensues.

This is a film that echoes the twists, turns and clever dialogue of Rian Johnson’s “Brick” (2005). Ole is a pro and I cannot sing his praises loudly enough. Technically it views seamlessly; he’s really thought out the way this film looks and sounds to the audience. If this ends up getting released, it has my highest recommendations for people who are not afraid of a challenge.

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