Minor Mishaps

Director: Annette K. Olesen

That peculiarly Danish brand of bittersweet intimate comedy finds its latest expression in Minor Mishaps, the story of a turbulent family reunion that combines many familiar ‘Dogme’ elements (though it is not, in the strict sense, a ‘Dogme’ film) with Mike Leigh’s method of preparing a script based on characters developed through intensive improvisation with the actors. The result is an extremely warm, likeable and funny film that, both in its technical polish and in the terrific performances, signals a very accomplished feature debut for its director, Danish National Film School graduate Annette K. Olesen.
The film’s blackest joke is that the mishaps in it are scarcely minor: death, illness, marriage break-ups and incest, both alleged and actual, are all on the agenda. The fist blow falls when Ulla, the matriarch of the family, is killed in a road accident. Gathering for her funeral, her three grown-up children and the widower’s brother reassess their lives. John (Jørgen Kiil), Ulla’s husband of 40 years, is a compulsive joker with a dicky heart, while his brother, Søren (Jesper Christensen), a carpenter on long-term sick leave who is fast turning into a couch potato, seems oblivious to the yearnings of his restless wife (Karen-Lise Mynster).
The couple’s children are equally dysfunction. Their workaholic son, Tom (Henrik Prip), has been neglecting his family, while the inhibited, socially inept youngest daughter, Marianne (Maria Rich), has never been able to let go of her parents’ apron strings. Her personal emancipation and successful search for love form the heart of the story. Rather than resolving all the characters’ problems, however, Minor Mishaps has the subtlety to leave a number of ambiguities and loose ends. All of which is very much the mixture as before, particularly as seen in Festen (The Celebration), but that should not detract from the film’s considerable achievements.oSheila Johnston/Screen International.
Denmark, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 109 mins.

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