An unusually amiable narrative film in which feelings take precedence over plot, Efter brylluppet transcends its contrivances to suggest how unexpected circumstances can shift our souls and cause us to leave important pieces of our lives behind. Directed by Susanne Bier from Anders Thomas Jensen’s script, which is based on Bier’s original story, this Danish film delivers a gentle blow to the heart that, unerringly aimed, profoundly registers.
The protagonist is Jacob Petersen, who leaves the financially strapped orphanage he runs in Bombay, including the boy who has become his surrogate son, for what he believes will be a week in Copenhagen, to petition a billionaire businessman for funds. It turns out that Jørgen is married to Jacob’s former lover, Helene; when he attends Jørgen’s adopted daughter’s wedding, Jacob realizes that Anna is his daughter. According to the stipulations of dying Jørgen’s donation of millions, Jacob will return to India only to pack up and leave forever.
Bier draws poignant life from her soap operatic set-up as Jacob is forced to confront daunting issues in a nobly committed life shaded with personal weakness and various kinds of failures. To be sure, the plot wobbles. It is impossible for me to believe, for instance, that Helene and her husband concluded that Jacob must be deceased when they couldn’t determine his whereabouts. But all such matters become immaterial when the humanity of Bier’s enterprise, itself a kind of orphanage, kicks into high gear.
At alive center is the tightly wound, wounded performance by former dancer Mads Mikkelsen, whose face bears the imprint of every bit of hard living that the script attributes to Jacob. The final scene between Jacob and the Indian boy whose adoption he proposes may haunt me for the rest of my life.
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