He’s played a Viking warrior in Valhalla Rising, a revolutionary physician in A Royal Affair and even set about 007’s gentlemanly parts in Casino Royale; clearly, there are few limits to Mads Mikkelsen’s abilities, and winning the Best Actor Award at Cannes for this wrenching portrait of small-town prejudice set the seal on the great Dane’s performing achievements.
Here he’s a popular member of staff at a rural junior school, and adored by the kids – especially his best friend’s small daughter, who develops an innocent yet inappropriate crush on him he has to rebuff. Soon however, there are accusations of sexual abuse against him by a child whose identity the principal cannot reveal. The news spreads, public opinion tags him as guilty, friendships are broken, and Mikkelsen compels attention and sympathy as a quiet and gentle individual whose only truth is the certainty of his innocence.
Convincingly knotty and extremely emotive fare, it’s certainly director Thomas Vinterberg’s finest since the legendary Festen. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)