Queen of Hearts
Starring Trine Dyrholm, Gustav Lindh, Magnus Krepper, Stine Gyldenkerne
The first half of Queen of Hearts approaches the conduct between an older woman and a much younger man much like author Doris Lessing’s The Grandmothers which was adapted into the sensational film called Adore by Anne Fontaine. Denmark’s submission to the Academy Awards takes a very sharp turn at the half way mark, exploring more psychological consequences to such manipulative behavior than both Adore or The Door in the Floor cared to examine. Danish actor Trine Dyrholm (A Royal Affair) gives an engrossing performance that evolves into a monstrous character that might even make Isabelle Huppert blush. The drama in Queen of Hearts takes it’s time unfolding, but it’s running time well spent establishing a strong, independent middle aged woman whose impulses go too far.
A fierce social services attorney in Copenhagen, Anne (Dyrholm) has a tough as nails demeanor in the court room and at home. Her husband Peter (Krepper) is a doctor and their modern woodland home is mostly filled with joy, lazy afternoons by the river and lots of wine. Their twin girls are excited that Peter’s teenage son Gustav (Lindh), from another marriage, will be living with them for a while. Gustav’s expulsion from school and run-ins with law enforcement have forced his mother to try something different before he is jailed and his future ruined. Gustav and his stepmother develop a sexual relationship born out of primal urges that quickly turns into something the teenager cannot mentally cope with. Anne’s assuredness won’t allow the illegal indiscretion to be exposed and takes drastic measures to keep their secret.
Trine Dyrholm ives an engrossing performance that evolves into a monstrous character that might even make Isabelle Huppert blush.
It’s curious both the poster, trailer and approved synopsis of the film explains what you might think is Queen of Hearts big reveal. Which is why after the moment Anne and Gustav share their explicit moment, there is still over an hour remaining. Director May el-Toukhy takes us well beyond just the surface level impulse that drives the characters in Adore, or the void Kim Bassinger’s character wants to fill in ‘Door’. The screenplay is more interested in manipulation concerning accountability and the extremes in which someone like Anne will go to retain a level of credibility. “You must learn to control yourself,” she’s instructed at work by a law partner. Anne is smarter than everyone around her, it’s what makes her seductively dangerous and no match for Gustav.
The coastal setting of Adore starring Robin Wright and Naomi Watts aided in the beauty of such a destructive story. The musical score, beautiful bodies, Queen of Hearts has none of that allure. There is no titillation factor, nor in any way does the narrative condone the behavior of Anne’s illegal behavior. Dyrholm’s acting on top of acting is quite an astonishing achievement and nothing is held back from her performance. May el-Toukhy is either a huge fan of Robin Wright, or there are a lot of coincidences, since Anne’s hair and even wardrobe mirror the American Academy Award nominee’s look across various projects. Queen of Hearts is open for less discussion than the similar films mentioned. The narrative isn’t inviting debate as much as it’s observing human degradation.
Queen of Hearts is explicit, tragic and engrossing. Dyrholm’s performance is not easily shaken.