“Just Another Love Story” is not just another love story. It is from Denmark, it has elements of film noir, and it has an outlandish batch of twists in its final 20 minutes. There is nothing “just another” about it.
We begin with images of our hero and narrator, Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen), lying on a sidewalk in the rain, apparently dying. He is a crime-scene photographer by trade, with a wife and two kids at home, the very picture of domestic tranquility. He is happy but somewhat unfulfilled – or at least he’s allowed his middle-aged imagination to convince him that he is. In truth, his family loves him and his job is steady. Many men would be envious of his situation.
Jonas witnesses a car accident in which a desperate young woman named Julia (Rebecka Hemse) is critically injured, and something about her makes him want to check on her progress. At the hospital, through a series of events that would be downright zany if the film weren’t so serious, Jonas comes to be mistaken for Julia’s boyfriend Sebastian. Her worried parents and siblings have never met Sebastian, but they are comforted to know that he is being so supportive during this trying time.
And so the film becomes something of a tender farce. Julia regains consciousness, now nearly blind and mostly amnesia-stricken – which means she can only take Jonas’ word for it that he’s her boyfriend. Quickly realizing that the charade has gone too far, Jonas tries to withdraw from the situation but cannot. He’s in for the long haul now. What’s more, his frequent visits to the hospital have made him start to fall in love with Julia.
The situation is bizarre and improbable, of course, but writer/director Ole Bornedal makes it work by remaining completely committed to it. His visual style is eye-catching, and he employs flashbacks and sidetracks to keep the story interesting. The level of reality is heightened somewhat: It doesn’t really matter that the basic story is strange; what’s important is that the actors play it like they believe it. The cast is uniformly devoted to Bornedal’s weird little world.,
As with all farces and film noirs, the foolish misdeeds of the hero must ultimately be punished. The house of cards has to come down sooner or later. The film goes off the rails then, with crazy, melodramatic twists and a scene of shockingly brutal violence in the last act.
Is it too much? Has the movie stretched our patience too far? My gut reaction is that this is 85 minutes of an enjoyably unusual drama, plus 20 minutes of excess. But on the other hand, it could be that the finale is the only reasonable conclusion to what’s happened so far. Either way, it’s a movie you can sink your teeth into, something a bit different from the norm.
B- (1 hr., 45 min.; Danish with subtitles; )