by Hope Madden
If the movies have taught me one thing this year, it’s that – regardless of the date on your birth certificate – you can come of age in Europe. That’s right, whether you are crusty oldsters on a trip through Iceland (Land Ho!) or fiftysomethings eating your way through Italy (The Trip to Italy), or an American asshole approaching 30 and seeking family in Copenhagen, no matter. As long as you’re a guy still holding on to an age that doesn’t suit you, you can turn that page with a European vacation. Just ask William (that American asshole).
Left stranded in Copenhagen after a guys’ trip picked up a third wheel (his best friend’s girlfriend), William (Gethin Anthony) tries to track down the Danish grandfather he never met. He somehow lands the assistance of a cute Danish waitress (Frederikke Dahl Hansen).
Her plucky resolve to solve the mystery of William’s grandfather fuels the exotic vacation romance by first time feature filmmaker Mark Raso, who proves as adept behind the camera as he is with a pen.
His setting is unerringly lovely – exactly the romantic backdrop where a lost soul could be redeemed by young love. Unless it’s William, and the love is really, really young.
Raso explores some taboo territory, but exploitation is not his aim (thank God). Though he dances with the tension of temptation throughout the film, Raso never loses sight of his characters’ humanity and it’s the human interaction that gives the film more than the simple allure of forbidden fruit.
It helps that Dahl Hansen turns in such a naturalistic and lovely performance as the youngster who has so smitten the douchey American. As his arrested adolescence crashes headlong into her actual adolescence, Dahl Hansen never loses her own character, never becomes simply the object of male fantasy. It’s a thoughtful, restrained performance that is the reason the film succeeds.
Not that Anthony’s turn is weak. On the contrary, it’s fascinatingly repellant. Kudos to Anthony and Raso alike for ignoring the temptation to make William more likeable. Anthony’s performance is never entirely genuine except in predatory flashes and you are never absolutely certain how things will resolve themselves. It’s an uncommon image for a protagonist, and it keeps the audience uneasy all the way through.
Copenhagen offers a simple story, exquisitely filmed and well performed. Will William grow up while traveling abroad?
He has a better chance there than in Vegas, I guess.