Director: May el-Toukhy

Runtime: 122 minutes

Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Gustav Lindh, Magnus Krepper

Synopsis: Successful lawyer Anne lives happily with her two daughters and her husband Peter. Yet when Gustav, Peter’s troubled teenage son from another relationship, comes to live with them, Anne forms an intimate bond with Gustav that jeopardizes her perfect life, one that will have devastating consequences.

URL: https://youtu.be/EnG6YI4QhF8

Danish-Egyptian director and co-writer May el-Toukhy [Long Story Short (2015)] brings us Queen of Hearts, a provocative domestic drama from Denmark which was the winner of the prestigious Audience Award at Sundance in 2019.

Anne [Trine Dyrholm – The Commune (2016), Love Is All You Need (2012), A Royal Affair (2012), In a Better World (2010)] and her husband Peter [Magnus Krepper The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009)] are an affluent middle-class couple living with their two young daughters in a beautiful modernist home on the edge of a forest just outside Copenhagen.

Anne is a partner at a law firm specialising in defending victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, whilst he is a top surgeon. Their life is uneventful but happy. Things change, however, when Gustav (Gustav Lindh), Peter’s recalcitrant teenage son from his first marriage, arrives to stay with them, having been expelled from his Swedish school. Although initially Anne is far from enthused about his sullen presence, over time he awakens something in her, and she seduces him, with the duo subsequently embarking on a dangerous affair.

Trine Dyrholm is outstanding as a liberal-minded lawyer who becomes predatory and manipulative in the affair with her truculent stepson.

Anne catches Gustav in an act of stealing and uses this to pressure him into behaving better – and this hold she has over him ignites some complex feelings in her, especially when she is secretly excited to overhear Gustav having sex with a girl he brings back to the house. Soon they are having an affair, and this clandestine situation reveals something dishonest and predatory in Anne that she cannot recognise in herself.

Queen of Hearts is a bold and uncompromising look at the darkness that can lie within the family. It explores problematic and emotionally complex territory, thematically fascinating, examining the destructive power of forbidden desire and how sexual abuse can masquerade as consensual seduction.

Queen of Hearts is a film where the protagonist becomes the antagonist – an unlikeable, middle-aged, female narcissist in this psychologically fascinating and morally complex film. In the age of MeToo, it reminds us that women can be the perpetrators of abuse just as men can be its victims.

The intimate bond Anne forms with Gustav jeopardizes her perfect life.  What initially seems like a liberating move for her soon turns into a disturbing story of power, betrayal, and responsibility with devastating consequences.

With echoes of Douglas Sirk type melodrama and the almost unbearable, slow burn tension of a Hitchcock thriller, the film is enhanced by the lucent cinematography of Jasper J. Spanning and by Jon Ekstrand’s uneasy score.

In looking at issues of gender inequality applied to sexual trauma and abuse, Queen of Hearts is a story of how a woman can be a predator just as easily as a man.  An exceptional piece of filmmaking with terrific ensemble acting.

Streaming on MUBI

Images courtesy of MUBI