Directed by Barbara Rothenborg — Screenplay by Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich.
As a Dane, I’d love to be able to say that each and every Danish film is a must-watch. But that definitely wouldn’t be true. Not every Danish film is as good as Another Round, Riders of Justice, Queen of Hearts, or Speak No Evil — to name just a few of the recent Danish hits. Now that Netflix has started to produce Danish films, one would hope that their presence in the Danish film industry would be a really good thing. It could be. It’s certainly offering new opportunities for Danish filmmakers. But based on Toscana, Against the Ice, and now Kærlighed for Voksne (int. title: Loving Adults) it is becoming clear that the streamer is having a difficult time making truly memorable Danish films. Kærlighed for Voksne doesn’t work.
Barbara Rothenborg’s Kærlighed for Voksne is based on Anna Ekberg’s novel of the same name, and it follows a cheating husband, Christian (played by Dar Salim), who is threatened into staying with his wife, Leonora (played by Sonja Richter). But he loves the woman he is having an affair with, Xenia (played by Sus Wilkins). The husband is prepared to take his wife’s life to get the life he so desires, but his wife is equally determined to get what she wants.
On paper, Kærlighed for Voksne has a lot going for it. It’s based on a relatively popular Danish novel, it’s supposed to be an erotic thriller, and it is filled with a cast of actors that are familiar faces in the Danish film industry such as Lars Ranthe (Another Round), Morten Burian (Speak No Evil), Sonja Richter (Elsker Dig for Evigt), and Dar Salim (Krigen). But it doesn’t live up to that promise. Of course, it should be said that the author of the novel that the film is based on, Anna Ekberg, is actually a pseudonym for Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich who are this film’s screenwriters.
I have a fondness for thrillers and erotic thrillers, but sometimes these films struggle to set themselves apart from the more genre-defining films that we’ve all seen a million times. That is the case with Kærlighed for Voksne. It is the kind of film that will remind you of better films in the genres like Gone Girl or even Adrian Lyne’s Deep Water. Granted, Deep Water wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but I would still rewatch it over giving Kærlighed for Voksne another viewing.
I don’t want to be too harsh because there are things to like about it. The film looks decent enough. The cast is recognizable. It gets the job done as a trashy but still somewhat entertaining thriller. But I really can’t recommend this film, and, to be perfectly honest, I think this film misses the mark by quite a bit. There were very few positives in my review notes, and my negatives started almost immediately as the film began.
The main narrative is sandwiched in between a frame story that focuses on a detective trying to solve a murder. As the film goes on, he narrates parts of the film and we get glimpses of him telling the main narrative to his adult daughter. However, I thought the frame story felt wholly unnecessary and very distracting. The film opens with his didactic narration telling us this cliche about jealousy, love, and murder. It is just one of the many examples where the film lays it on too thick. Though I haven’t read the book that the film is based on, I assume this frame story is a holdover from the book, but it should’ve been scrapped entirely because it feels like you’re watching the adaptation while you’re listening to an audiobook.
The line delivery constantly threw me off. Sometimes the dialogue is too formal to be believable. Other times — and I won’t single out performers (since they are mostly fine) — the line deliveries and performances felt over-the-top or wooden. Then there is this spousal argument in the first forty minutes that is littered with expository dialogue. There are trite or unbelievable plot developments, and, to add to that, I also thought the tone-setting music laid it on so thick that it bordered on the comical.
One day, there may very well be a great Danish Netflix film. I really hope so. But unfortunately, it isn’t today. It pains me to say that Barbara Rothenborg’s Kærlighed for Voksne is a cliched erotic thriller — which feels like a knockoff of better films in the genre — that I cannot recommend.
4 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.