A Danish meller with a suspense undertow, “Accused” keeps auds guessing about who is telling the truth when a middle-class father (Troels Lyby) is accused by his teenage daughter (Kirstine Rosenkrands Mikkelsen) of sexually abusing her. While feature debut by experienced editor and docmaker Jacob Thuesen (“Under New York”) looks classy, with sleek production values and refined perfs, screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson (“In Your Hands,” “Aftermath”) is at heart a Joe Eszterhas movie set among the Scandie bourgeoisie but without the lurid fun. Casting and topical theme should ensure healthy grosses at home, with dinkier B.O. receipts elsewhere.
Swimming instructor Henrik Christoffersen (Lyby) and his wife Nina (Sofie Grabol) have a nice home in Copenhagen, a solid marriage and a good sex life. The only problem is their daughter, Stine (Rosenkrands Mikkelsen, who remains unseen until 45 minutes into pic), a moody 14-year-old who has a habit of telling lies in class. It looks like Stine is up to her old tricks again when she tells the school therapist (Bodil Jorgensen) her father had sex with her several times when she was 11 and 12.
Nina stands by her man even when he is charged by the police and jailed. Stine is taken into state custody. At a prison that will strike most non-Scandinavian viewers as impressively cushy (prisoners get TV sets with remote controls, and enjoy conjugal visiting rights), a solitarily confined Henrik gets a taste of the instant rush to judgment meted out to his “kind” (i.e. child molesters), as a guard describes him.
Impact on viewers will depend very much on how much info is leaked about pic’s second half, which hinges on the outcome of the trial. A likeably ordinary guy, it at first seems hard to believe Henrik could do what he’s accused of. However, at times Henrik seems to semi-jokingly cop to the charge, invoking the damning paradox of the man who is asked to give a yes or no answer to the question, “Are you still beating your wife?” Unfortunately, the script goes awry in the final act uncertain where to go after the “did or didn’t he?” revelation is resolved.
Underplaying delicately, Lyby (“Okay”) gives a remarkable perf that keeps the question of Henrik’s guilt right on the cusp. Sofie Grabol, like Lyby, a stalwart on the Danish drama scene and the helmer’s real-life spouse, offers sturdy support in a difficult role, while a smattering of well-known thesps, such as Lars Kaalund, fill out minor roles.
Helming by Thuesen is fluent without being particularly flashy. Perhaps betraying his editing background, he favors a regular, stately rhythm that gives equal weight to small and big scenes alike.
Production design and lensing keep to bluish-gray color scheme that goes far toward creating a cool, Scandinavian flavor but gets a bit boring eventually. Sebastian Blenkov throws around a few key lights and casts shadows for enhanced dramatic effect. Music is so sparingly used it’s barely noticeable.