Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Key House Mirror’

A strong premise and mega-watt thesps can’t cover up conspicuous script gaps.

Ghita Norby, Sven Wollter, Trine Pallesen, Jens Brenaa, Michael Sand.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3605276/reference

Acknowledging the physical and emotional needs of seniors is an important move forward in recent movie treatments of the retired crowd, but while “Key House Mirror” has a strong premise and mega-watt thesps, its predictable script can’t cover up conspicuous gaps. Emotionally inspired by helmer Michael Noer’s grandmother, the story concerns a woman who unexpectedly finds extramarital passion in the nursing home she’s moved into with her paralyzed husband. Marking a significant shift in tone from the director’s earlier gritty works, yet using the kind of handheld lensing not usually associated with sentimental tales, the pic will do big biz in Scandi territories and could break into the Euro arthouse market.

Part of the film’s assured Nordic success will come from the presence of legendary actors Ghita Norby and Sven Wollter, two powerhouse performers with the kinds of (deserved) reputations that guarantee public interest. Norby plays Lily, a strong-minded woman determined to maintain an outwardly “normal” life even after she and her stroke-ridden, increasingly unresponsive husband, Max (Jens Brenaa), relocate to a nursing home. As the fittest resident in the place, she doesn’t really belong, but she busies herself looking after Max’s needs.

When jovial Swede Erik (Wollter) moves in across the hall, Lily looks askance at his charm offensive, but the two bond during a furtive late-night pie-baking incursion into the forbidden territory of the kitchen. Suddenly she drops her reserve and rushes into his arms, in a well-played scene that nicely conveys her craving for physical and emotional comfort. The two don’t hide their relationship, but she’s not prepared for the negative reaction of daughter Katrine (Trine Pallesen) when she proclaims her new love over the Christmas table.

Lily tries to explain that her relationship with Max always lacked passion, but Katrine refuses to listen, instead telling her mother that everyone’s been concealing the fact that Lily’s memory is rapidly deteriorating. Lily is taken by surprise, and so, unfortunately, are viewers, for whom this rather major piece of information is news indeed. Perhaps Noer wanted the earlier scenes to be experienced strictly through Lily’s eyes and therefore withheld any sign of her early-onset Alzheimer’s, yet if so, surely there were other ways, and introducing this major plot point via such a method plays fast and loose with the trust audiences invested in what came before.

The title “Key House Mirror” consists of words used by a doctor to assess memory loss (much like the excellent Spanish docu “Bicycle Spoon Apple”), which Lily ultimately has to acknowledge is becoming a problem. Erik rather too quickly leaves the picture at this point, and while he returns, the weight of character development largely falls on Lily’s shoulders. Of course, Norby has no problem carrying a picture: Her stubborn determination, her yearning for a man’s touch and her affecting bewilderment are all movingly conveyed. So, too, is Wollter’s mischievous twinkle and the way he projects heaps of charisma to disguise Erik’s diminishing strength.

It’s all quite a shift from Noer’s previous films “R” and “Northwest,” both grounded in worlds of youthful violence, yet there are also similarities. Here, too, he shoots on location for a heightened sense of realism — the extras are nursing home residents and staff — and together with his usual d.p. and editor (Magnus Nordenhof Jonck and Adam Nielsen, respectively), he’s maintained an indie feel with the moving camera frequently kept very close to the protags.

Rotterdam Film Review: 'Key House Mirror'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Spectrum), Jan. 27, 2015. (Also in Gothenburg FIlm Festival — competing; Berlin Film Festival — market.) Running time: 95 MIN. Original title: "Nogle hus spejl")

Production: (Denmark) A Nordisk Film Distribution release of a Nordisk Film production. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Tomas Radoor, Rene Ezra. Executive producers, Henrik Zein, Lena Haugaard.

Crew: Directed by Michael Noer. Screenplay, Anders Frithiof August, Noer. Camera (color), Magnus Nordenhof Jonck; editor, Adam Nielsen; production designer, Rie Lykke; costume designer, Pernille Holm; sound, Rasmus Winther Jensen, Kasper Janus Rasmussen; line producer, Maj-Britt Paulmann Dalsgaard; assistant director, Antony Castle; casting, Ditte Kiel.

With: Ghita Norby, Sven Wollter, Trine Pallesen, Jens Brenaa, Michael Sand.

More Film

  • For Lineup Story

    Billie Piper's Directorial Debut, 'Rare Beasts,' to Bow in Venice Critics' Week

    “Rare Beasts,” the directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Collateral”) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, which has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, four of them from female filmmakers. Produced by Vaughan Sivell of Western Edge Pictures in association with [...]

  • 'Mientras dure la guerra' -Rodaje Modmedia-

    Alejandro Amenabar, Ricardo Darin, Paco Cabezas Bound for San Sebastian

    MADRID  –  Alejandro Amenábar, Ricardo Darín and Paco Cabezas, director of episodes from “Peaky Blinders” and “American Gods,” look set to join Penelope Cruz, already confirmed as a Donostia Award winner, at this year’s 67th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival. The biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, this year’s San Sebastian runs Sept.20-28. Amenábar’s [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • Bottom of the 9th

    Film Review: ‘Bottom of the 9th’

    Nearly two decades after scoring an audience award at Sundance for “Two Family House,” a smartly understated yet deeply affecting indie about a Staten Island factory worker who deeply regrets stifling his showbiz ambitions, director Raymond De Felitta steps back up to the plate with “Bottom of the 9th,” another dramatically solid and emotionally satisfying [...]

  • Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in

    Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in Africa (EXCLUSIVE)

    DURBAN–Endemol Shine Group has sold the rights to adapt its critically acclaimed and highly popular Nordic Noir detective series “The Bridge” to Cape Town-based production company Both Worlds Pictures, Variety has learned exclusively. The series will feature an all-African cast and will be set around the Beit Bridge border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Originally known [...]

  • Durban Film Fest 2019

    Durban Fest Hails Film as ‘Conscience of Our Nation’

    DURBAN–When Ros and Teddy Sarkin raised the curtain on the first Durban Intl. Film Festival 40 years ago, the odds were long that their scrappy fest would survive its inaugural edition. The apartheid government and its draconian censorship board had a stranglehold on the films that reached South African theaters, banning the sorts of subversive [...]

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content