Kaspar Munk's debut, "Hold Me Tight," is a classic example of what happens when bad scripts tackle good subjects.

Kaspar Munk’s debut, “Hold Me Tight,” is a classic example of what happens when bad scripts tackle good subjects. With school bullying turning into major news fodder, the timing is ideal for a hard-hitting film on the issue, but notwithstanding an impressive perf by the preternaturally mature Julie Brochorst Andersen, the pic bites off more than it can chew, resulting in a few powerful scenes smothered by stereotypes and one of the most spectacularly misconceived endings in memory. Local play in September made a splash, but despite an emerging talent award in Rome, the film’s non-Scandi prospects are slim.

Sara (Brochorst Andersen) and younger brother Jonas (Wili Julius Findsen) are the ultimate latchkey kids; for much of the pic’s running time, it’s not even clear if they have parents (they do). At high school, Sara’s the perfect student, raising the ire of bad girl Louise (Sofia Mileva Cukic), who’s also frustrated that Sara’s virginal aura attracts more attention than her own slutty boastings.

Average kid Mikkel (Frederik Christian Johansen) and Sara exchange glances, but neither musters the courage to act on their unformed feelings. Louise spreads lies about Sara in school, and in a deeply disturbing scene, her classmates gang up on the sad-eyed teen, stripping her to her underwear as Mikkel simulates rape and Louise records it all on video. Guilt and shame build up in all the characters until heavyhanded tragedy strikes.

Not content to keep the focus on these three characters, scripter Jannik Tai Mosholt also adds Hassan (Hicham Najid), an inconsistently drawn figure whose father (Khalid Alsubeihi) is a stereotype of the hardass new immigrant, wanting to make certain his kid fits in while maintaining his traditional identity. Further side roles hit the usual buttons normally associated with TV series set in high schools.

Despite a short running time, “Hold Me Tight” feels frustratingly drawn out, the somnolent music furthering the sense that it’s unfolding in slow motion. Thankfully, there’s Brochorst Andersen, a true find with an uncanny ability to hold the screen and a striking aura of gravitas (Rebekke Leve’s costume design matches these qualities beautifully). Johansen also makes a positive mark as Mikkel.

Is there any color left in Denmark? Judging from this and other recent pics awash in ice-cold blues and grays, it appears the country has outlawed all bright tones. Perhaps Danish film schools need to remind helmers and lensers that color contrasts, far from being unhip, make viewing more pleasurable and work even better in setting mood.

Hold Me Tight

Denmark

Production

A Sandrew Metronome Filmdistribution release of a Nimbus Film production, with the support of the Danish Film Institute, in collaboration with TV2 Denmark. (International sales: NonStop Sales, Stockholm.) Produced by Anders Toft Andersen. Executive producers, Birgitte Hald, Bo Ehrhardt. Directed by Kaspar Munk. Screenplay, Jannik Tai Mosholt.

Crew

Camera (color), David Katznelson; editors, Ida Bregninge, Nanna Frank Moller; music, Mikael Simpson; production designer, Rie Lykke; costume designer, Rebekke Leve; sound (Dolby SR Digital), Mikkel Groos. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Alice in the City), Nov. 1, 2010. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Julie Brochorst Andersen, Frederik Christian Johansen, Sofia Mileva Cukic, Hicham Najid, Wili Julius Findsen, Charlotte Fich, Bjarne Henriksen, Helene Egelund, Patricia Schumann, Khalid Alsubeihi.

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