May 14, 2009

Just Another Love Story

2laws

Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ***

Just Another Love Story opens on three rapid-fire scenes of couples in various states of romance, danger and despair. In the first, a wife sobs over the dying body of her husband (our protagonist). We then see an earlier, happier moment of this pair tenderly discussing their diminished sex life. And a scene of a much younger couple arguing with a gun. Cut to black. Gunshot. The corrosive effects of desire and deception on human connections is quickly established in director Ole Bornedal's (helmer of the 1997 American re-make of his own Nightwatch) self-conscious but thoroughly entertaining re-work of classic film noir tradition.

Jonas is sleep-walking through his life. He dislikes his job as a crime scene photographer, he's disgusted by his co-worker's crass jokes and dreams of a life photographing pastoral landscapes. His wife has become so consumed with the minutiae of maintaining their middle class lifestyle that he feels neglected. And child-rearing two adorable moppets has not proven to be the enterprise of endless fulfillment that the Hallmark cards promised. Psychological lethargy has taken hold and he desperately searches for deeper meaning and signals for action in his mundane daily existance.

Jonas's mid-life crisis becomes a full-fledged fugue state when he inadvertently causes a horrific car accident, leaving one man dead and leaving Julia, a beautiful young heiress, a blind amnesiac. He abandons his wife and children and assumes the identity of Julia's presumed dead, abusive boyfriend Sebastian. The faux Sebastian's presence leaves her family ill at ease, but has a calming effect on Julia. Her appreciative, wealthy father tucks blank checks into his coat pocket and Jonas assumes a new daily routine of spongebaths and gentle, encouraging lies.

But nothing is ever so simple. The wheels start to come off Jonas's wagon as Julia slowly regains her memory and realizes there were very good reasons she was fleeing this psychotic partnership. Things are further complicated when the real Sebastian arrives and decides to play along with the elaborate hoax.

With life closing its vice-like grip on Jonas, Just Another Love Story revels in the cautionary tale tradition of old-school noir. But with its breakneck flashbacks, hyper-stylized fantasy sequences and energetic editing the film has been born in the flames of decidedly more modern tales like The Matrix or Memento. Contrary to the methods Bornedal employed to convey an accused murderer's increasing isolation (languid shots of endless rows of metal gurneys and sickly jars of body parts encased in formaldahyde) in Nightwatch, Love Story uses a frenzied mix of violence, affection, regret and joy to arrive at its inevitably grim conclusion.

This DVD features a beautiful transfer but only the theatrical trailer for supplemental materials.

See also: Tell No One, What Lies Beneath, Brick, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.



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Posted by cphillips at May 14, 2009 5:00 PM
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