Just Another Love Story is classic noir, wrapped in the dark wit of modern Danish cinema. Its opening – a man dying on the rain soaked streets of Copenhagen – echoes scenes from Hollywood’s classic era, but it bleeds into something much more typically European. Part of the joy is the unknown cast, who are given the time to fully embody their characters. This is especially true for Anders W. Berthelsen, who plays the protagonist Jonas as the ultimate everyman who ends up caught between his comfortable, familiar home life and the mysterious woman who literally enters with a crash.
On the run from a violent, believed to be dead boyfriend, Julia (Rebecka Hemse) totals her car, narrowly avoiding Jonas and his family – filmed inside the vehicle in a stomach churning way. Seemingly kicked out of his rut by this incident, Jonas attempts to visit her in the hospital but Julia’s family mistake him for her boyfriend.
By now, you can probably guess where this is going. Jonas quickly grows close to Julia who, conveniently blinded by the accident and suffering from tempory amnesia, cannot verify his identity. A tad contrived perhaps, but the script by director Ole Bornedal sizzles with wit, with Jonas awkwardly trying to explain his way out every situation and some of the best lines going to his family and friends – especially his wife (Charlotte Fich) and his work colleague Frank (Dejan Cukic).
Bornedal’s direction is excellent, making the most of the lean 100 minute running time and paying homage to his favourite genre moments, from The Invisible Man and The Exorcist III during the hospital scenes, to the aforementioned noir touchstones. Despite the shorter than usual runtime, he’s unafraid to languish on the characters, preferring to build the story through dialogue and body language, rather than CGI and action sequences.
Only in the final moments is the pace quickened, bringing the strings together and culminating in a bloody beachside fight. Overall, Just Another Love Story is greater than the sum of its parts; it hardly rewrites the rulebook but it playfully toys with it, expecting a small level of genre knowledge from the audience, playing everything with a wink and a nudge but also ensuring that the story never suffers in the face of smugness.
Truly a must for genre fans everywhere.