Can a single, professional woman in her mid-30s find happiness with an ex-con? Wisely, “Dancers” avoids giving a definitive answer, concentrating instead on the raw emotions catalyzed by the central couple’s troubled courtship and putting a different spin on the risks of love. Showing that every story has at least two sides, this powerfully thesped second feature from the “A Soap” team of writer-helmer Pernille Fischer Christensen and co-scribe Kim Fupz Aakeson provides gripping adult drama that could waltz from the international fest circuit into niche arthouse and broadcast dates offshore.
Energetic, outgoing Annika (Trine Dyrholm) runs a popular dance studio with her widowed mother (Birthe Neumann) that offers classes to all ages in various styles. The work has become her life; she even lives on site.
When Annika meets laconic electrician Lasse (Anders W. Berthelsen), sparks don’t exactly fly, but there’s an undeniable attraction. Socially awkward and bristling with repressed rage, Lasse reveals he’s just been released from prison, but Annika still feels drawn to him.
As Annika and Lasse start going out, an anonymous caller implies that there’s more to Lasse’s mysterious past than he lets on. Annika, however, finds their relationship a much-needed respite from her staid life and symbiotic bond with her mother, who is disgusted by her daughter’s new beau. The sex scenes show that it also taps into her dark side; she starts to suffer from a cognitive dissonance that affects her work.
Like “A Soap,” pic is set in an open-ended present somewhere in Denmark. Where the earlier film employed the motif of an ongoing soap opera the characters watched and used soap conventions to move between dramatic sequences, “Dancers” uses choreographed scenes in which the studio students, under Annika’s supervision, work on their year-end performance.
Reunited with many of her “A Soap” team, helmer Fischer Christensen goes for realistic production values and steers clear of melodrama. She supports this choice by keeping scenes between the lovers mostly free from a background score.
Displaying a palpable chemistry, Danish stars Dyrholm (“A Soap”) and cast-against-type Berthelsen (“Just Another Love Story,” “What No One Knows”) give remarkably nuanced and physical perfs, her ramrod posture and straightforward manner contrasting with his downcast eyes and wary defensiveness. Fluid handheld lensing by Sebastian Klenkov leads the tidy tech package.