"Just Another Love Story" **** (out of ****)
It has finally dawned on me that we are almost into the third month of the year and I haven't reviewed a single recent release. Some of it was intentional, as I have said I am going to focus more on classic films and the work of great directors, but, I never fully intended to stop writing about modern fare.
I have seen some good recent releases, I was a big fan of Tom Tykwer's "The International" which sadly seems to have fizzled out of the public's eye-sight, for instance.
And now we have the Danish film "Just Another Love Story". Here is a movie which is basically an exercise in story telling. It is a cross-genre picture, meaning it doesn't settle on one genre. There are elements of dark comedy, family drama, suspense and noir. But rarely have I seen a film told with so much energy. I actually felt alive watching this film. It was an experience I haven't had since watching, another Tykwer film, "Run, Lola, Run" or Dario Argento's "Suspiria". The film is a roller-coaster ride of thrills.
Films such as "Just Another Love Story" are works which exist within their own world and establish their own logic. This story probably isn't realistic. In the real world events wouldn't unfold the way they do here. Luckily this is a movie. You have to shut off your brain and throw logic out the window. In order to appreciate a film like this you have to allow yourself to be taken into the film's world. Don't question anything, just sit back and go along for the ride. It is pointless to resist.
And that is exactly why I like this film. It is unrelenting in its intensity and sheer audacious story telling. The filmmaker and writer, Ole Bornedal, has enough confidence in the story and in our ability to follow him on this adventure that he keeps taking us further and further down what could be considered a ridiculous plot. It is just one event after another. Layer upon layer is added to the point where I was on the edge of my seat waiting in excitement to figure out where all this is going to go.
The plot follows a man named Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen). He is married to Mette (Charlotte Fich) and they have two children. They seem like a happy, loving couple. In an early scene, the two are in bed while Jonas tries to figure out the amount of times they have made love. According to his calculations it has been about 2,ooo times. He informs Mette, that is simply not enough.
One day, while driving their beat-up, old car, an accident happens. Their car stalls in the middle of the road, while an emotionally confused woman, Julia (Rebecka Hemse) is driving at a frantic pace. At the last moment she sees the car and swirls out of the way, but not quick enough to avoid tragedy. She has luckily survived but another passenger has died. Julia is taken to a hospital where she is in a coma.
Jonas feels responsible. His wife would nag him to buy a new car but he refused. Jonas knows the accident was his fault, and I personally agree with him. Why didn't he turn the car to the side of the road, out of everyone's way for example. Now Jonas wants to visit the young woman in the hospital to check on her health.
Through a series of events I refuse to reveal, Jonas is now mistaken for Julia's boyfriend, which her family has never met, Sebastian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who is actually whom Julia was running away from. Now Jonas has come to know the family as they expect him to take care of her as he goes along with the idea he is her boyfriend. We have seen this movie before, it starred Sandra Bullock, "While You Were Sleeping". But "Just Another Love Story" doesn't stop there.
Jonas starts to fall in love with Julia, who is still in a coma. This reminds me a bit of the Almodovar film "Talk To Her", where a male nurse falls in love with one of his coma patients. Jonas starts to doubt his marriage to Mette and the life they lead. Julia, he feels, is his true love. He can't go on leading two lives, he must decide between Julia or his wife and family.
But yet another element is added to the story. A secret, bandage, wheel-car bound patient is seen lurking around the hospital and has an unusual interest in Julia. Who is this man?
A few more plot twist are revealed but I'd have to be a fool to reveal them. Hopefully what I have told you about the film is enough for you to see the point I was trying to make. The film never lets up.
Some might argue the film does too much. The structure is a mess. You can't cross these genres. But, why not? That is what makes "Just Another Love Story" so much fun to watch. It switches these genres with such ease. I think Stephen Holden, film critic for the New York Times, was on to something when he wrote in his review, "you have the not unpleasant sense of being taken for a ride" he goes on to say "it is as exciting as a trip through a well-equipped scary fun house."
Naturally not everyone will enjoy this film. When you risk as much as this film does it will put off some viewers. But if you are willing to accept the film on its own terms I think this could prove to be an entertaining, exciting film. Lucky for me I like these kind of wild adventure films. I admire a director who is willing to risk it all and put everything on the line. When it works it makes for a highly energized, stylish ride. While it may be too early in the year to say this, so far this is one of my favorite films of the year along with "Waltz with Bashir".
The film was also nominated for a grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.