Ulrich Thomsen ("The Celebration") leads an outstanding cast with his contained but searing portrait of Christoffer. A successful Stockholm restaurateur living a charmed life with his Swedish actress wife, Maria (Lisa Werlinder), he returns to Denmark when his industrialist father commits suicide. His mother (Ghita Norby), a woman of no uncertain strength and purpose, insists that Christoffer take over the family steel business. Complying with Maria's wishes, he declines. But then, in a stunning moment, Christoffer looks out at a plant full of 900 hardhats to announce his father's death--and claims the helm. Within weeks he's fending off the undermining maneuvers of his brother-in-law (Lars Brygmann) and trying to save the company from bankruptcy. Each decision is more cold-blooded than the last, and as he embraces an unexplored side of his character--his destiny, his mother would argue--his marriage founders. The film's climax is a powerful sequence, set in the South of France, in which Christoffer hits bottom in his struggle between capitalist imperatives and personal happiness. Making it clear that there's no place for the latter in the equation, his imperious mother slaps him into shape.
Fly's subtle observations about certain elements of the upper class come through with quiet force. Emotions--some expressed, most not--pulse through every nuanced performance and gracefully composed frame. Bookending scenes underscore the poignancy of the doomed love between Christoffer and Maria, whom Werlinder imbues with vitality and passion. Although Maria's an accomplished actress, there's one role she cannot play: corporate wife. Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder, Ghita Norby, Lars Brygmann, Karina Skands and Peter Steen. Directed by Per Fly. Written by Per Fly, Kim Leona, Mogens Rukov and Dorte Hogh. Produced by Ib Tardini. A Cinema Guild release. Drama. Danish-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 110 min