Nothing's All Bad

Nothing's All Bad

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Four lonely people; one bleak city; a series of increasingly awkward encounters but perhaps, in the end, a smidgeon of hope. This complex ensemble piece from Danish newcomer Mikkel Munch-Fals echoes the work of Todd Solondz and Aki Kaurismaki as it charts lives shaped by pain and further complicated by the misunderstandings and cruelties (intentional and unintentional) of others.

Ingeborg (Bodil Jørgensen) is facing the difficult transition to retirement when she is struck by tragedy in her personal life. Desperate for company, she struggles to navigate a largely uncaring and exploitative world. Anna (Mille Lehfeldt) has just had a mastectomy and is looking for ways of reconciling herself with her new body shape and recovering her sense of attractiveness. Anders (Henrik Prip) has problems controlling the sexual urges which have destroyed his marriage and is seeking therapy, afraid that he might hurt someone. Meanwhile his son Jonas (Sebastian Jessen) drifts through life working as a prostitute, getting himself into a series of increasingly fraught situations until finally he discovers the real risks he can face by making himself available for exploitation.

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If this sounds grim, it is, but it keeps the audience engaged thanks to a beautifully judged script and a keen sense of the absurd. Dark comedy enlivens the most painful situations. Munch-Fals is fascinated by his characters' embarrassment in scenes that can be hard to watch, but by sticking with them he invests each with real humanity. All of the central actors are superb. They're backed by an array of well developed supporting characters and by great set deign full of clues to undiscussed yet significant histories. Apparently innocent objects take on much more disturbing connotations as the story shifts. The difficult subject matter presents challenges for all involved, not least the audience, but the emotional rawness of the piece ultimately makes for compelling viewing.

Showing extraordinary confidence for a first-timer, Munch-Fals has proven that he is one to watch. Nothing's All Bad will be too much for some viewers but an unusual treat for others.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2011
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Four troubled, lonely people gradually find themselves connected through a series of coincidences in a film which blends dark comedy with touching insight.
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