(director/writer: Thomas Vinterberg; screenwriter: Tobias Lindholm; cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen; editors: Janus Billeskov Jansen/Anne Østerud; music: Nikolaj Egelund; cast: Mads Mikkelsen (Lucas), Thomas Bo Larsen (Theo), Annika Wedderkopp (Klara), Lasse Fogelstrom (Marcus), Susse Wold (Grethe), Anne Louise Hassing (Agnes), Lars Ranthe (Bruun), Alexandra Rapaport (Nadja); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Morten Kaufmann/Sisse Graum Jorgensen; Magnolia Pictures; 2012-Denmark-in Danish with English subtitles)
“The injustice story might be upsetting but it tells us nothing we don’t already know about the horrors from a rush to judgment that turns out wrong.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Denmark filmmaker, of the Dogme 95 movement, Thomas Vinterberg(“The Celebration”/”Submarino”/”It’s All About Love”), helms a polished, well-executed and acted melodrama. The injustice story might be upsetting but it tells us nothing we don’t already know about the horrors from a rush to judgment that turns out wrong–even though we, as a society, keep repeating the same mistakes. Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm co-write a damning and effective screenplay about a community’s hypocrisy, crucifixion mentality and poor investigation ability by its authority figures to handle a problem that should be easily handled.

It tells of a cute kindergarten girl, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), making up a story about one of the school kindergarten teachers who happens to be her next door neighbor and her father Theo’s (Thomas Bo Larsen) best friend, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen). She mentions that Lucas exposes his private parts to her and tells this spiteful lie to the school principal Grethe (Susse Wold) after he unintentionally hurt her feelings. When word gets out because the inept Grethe bungles the investigation and no one else in authority knows how to talk with the girl to get the facts without leading her on, the close-knit community persecutes the innocent victim (a rock through his house window, killing his pet dog and ostracizing him). The divorced 40-year-old finds all his old friends and neighbors are turning against him. Viewed as a monster, he’s refused the right to shop in his village’s only super-market. It’s only his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), who chooses to live with dad during the custody fight and comfort him during his trying times.

The pic aims to let us know how the life of an innocent person can be ruined by false accusations and how a botched investigation could be so damaging. Unfortunately the pic has little to tell us after letting us view for most of the story how it reduces a respected member of the community to feeling disparaged and a loner up against the wall as he fights to get back his good name. It works only in a simplistic way, of letting the viewer, who is privileged to be absolutely positive of Lucas’s innocence, feel superior to the Christian community’s tormentors, who are despicably viewed as the same kind of folks who ignorantly demanded their Savior be executed on the cross. In one revealing scene, they are observed attending a Christmas Eve church service and the little girl accuser sings like an angel in the chorus.