Loving Adults Movie Review: Unpredictable and intense
A refreshing take on its infidelity-thriller genre
Based on Anna Ekberg’s novel, Till Death Do Us Part, Loving Adults sets its foundation in familiar environs – infidelity, love, marital breakdown, jealousy and crimes of passion – but the treatment of its oft-explored subject matter is the outright winner over here. Despite some very believable acting from the principal cast, you feel you’re in the midst of a cliché (half an hour in), but just as you get comfortable with that reasoning, the film throws you an unexpected curveball. Intelligently conceived and executed, Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg and the writers present you the opposite of what a standard love-crime thriller would be. It pushes an interesting narrative where the primary form of revenge (on the part of the betrayed spouse) is to do everything in one’s power to keep the cheating party from leaving. Add obsession, blackmail, veiled threats, the emotional burdens of parenthood, the likelihood of violence and a sketchy relationship history from decades ago, and you have yourself something uncomfortable, unsettling and powerful to contend with. The story is narrated in snatches by a cop who chooses to break it all down to his soon-to-be-married daughter on her wedding day, no less…another atypical storytelling choice, but one that works in building intrigue.
Director – Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg
Cast – Dar Salim, Sonja Richter, Sus Wilkins, Mikael Birkkjær
Streaming On – Netflix
The performances are excellent across the board but it is Sonja Richter’s central role as the betrayed spouse that makes this Danish film what it is. Her character Leonara has a menace that simmers gently beneath the surface. It’s all in the intensity of the eyes. How much she’s sacrificed for her husband Christian (Dar Salim) over the years, for instance, is one of the major talking points in a pivotal scene where he finally musters up the courage to tell her he wants out. Her demeanour changes quickly, unleashing an inner fury that has lain dormant for years. She gave up a promising career as a violinist two decades ago when their son fell sick. And when Christian reminds her that they had an arrangement back then (that he would work to ensure they were fine and she would look after their child), she erupts. She says she wishes for some form of compensation and that she is unwilling to give up the house and her life for his whims and fancies. Seeing no way out, she brings up an incident from the past involving Christian and their son’s surgeries in the US. His words, “But I did it to save our son’s life! I had no choice!”, fall on deaf ears. If the police are to get wind of it, he will face extended jail time. Then there’s the much younger Xenia (Sus Wilkins), Christian’s mistress, a top architect in his firm, who has great expectations of her own. In an unholy mess and his back against the wall, Christian must make a move – either one comes with a set of consequences, and how!
Running is used as a motif through the narrative. You can the see the film’s wheels turning as Leonara puts on her signature red hooded windcheater and sets out on her runs. An expert runner, it is her time to switch off and let the adrenaline mask much of the negative energy brewing inside. Her obsessive need to do long distances through winding roads and challenging weather conditions gives birth to Christian’s first impulsive plan. They are both on edge once the affair has been established, but the difference between them is that he is impulsive and she is more calculating. A trip to meet Leonara’s best friend (someone she hasn’t spoken to for twenty years) throws up some disturbing rumours from her past. While speaking about her own failed marriage, her friend says something to Christian that hits home. “She isn’t the kind of person you can just leave. Leonara is the type who’s either all in or all out.” It pretty much sums up what he’s up against.
Loving Adults is a refreshing take on its infidelity-thriller genre. Intense and unpredictable as the fractured relationships it portrays, it has the ability to surprise you more than once. The fact that it begins as a cliché waiting to unfold is a deliberate attempt to throw you off guard. Intelligent writing and direction coupled with a worthy all-round acting display (with major and minor characters sketched so realistically) make this Danish effort quite engaging. The melancholy pieces of classical violin arrange themselves beautifully across the plot, representing in one way or another, Leonara’s failed aspirations as a professional musician. It has its minor flaws, sure, but on the whole, Loving Adults isn’t a film you should be passing on!