You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘That Time of Year’

Paprika Steen stars in and directs this busy yet pat dysfunctional-family seriocomedy penned by leading Danish playwright Jakob Weis.

Paprika Steen
Paprika Steen, Sofie Grabel, Karen-Lise Mynster, Lars Brygmann, Jacob Lohmann, Lars Knutzon, Fanny Leander Bornedal, Patricia Schumann, Jakob Randrup, Bodil Lassen, Hans Holtegaard, Mikas Maximus Dalhoff Christiansen, Sofus Sondergaard Mikkelsen, Troja Reppien Trovatten, Otto Leonardo Steen Rieks.

1 hour 43 minutes

“That Time of Year” refers to Christmas, and it is a given in Danish thesp Paprika Steen’s third directorial feature that the togetherness holidays force on us are a holy pain in the arse, with or without Baby Jesus. That “Families are the best… and the worst!” stance feels more than a bit pat in a dramedy whose crises and insufferable behaviors have a well-made-play calculation even as they’re meant to capture emotional messiness. Nevertheless, this mix of sour comedy and default sentimentality should have some appeal in Scandinavia, where the actors’ familiarity will be a lure. Farther afield, it may stir lesser interest as a foreign-language piece too mainstream, and not original or subtle enough, for art-house audiences.

The theatrical air shouldn’t surprise, as this is the first original feature screenplay for well-established Danish playwright Jakob Weis. Sooner or later, “That Time of Year” will probably make its way to the stage — and in truth, that is where it belongs.

Katrine (Steen) is nervous as usual about hosting her annual family Christmas Eve dinner, though unflappable husband Mads (Jacob Lohmann) is a steadying influence. Not only must they prepare an elaborate meal for 13, but teenage daughter Maria (Fanny Leander Bornedal) is having a major snit fit for reasons as yet unknown, and there’s the last-minute inclusion of Katrine’s sister Patricia (Patricia Schumann), who’s just out of rehab again and sure to discomfort the others. Not that this lot need much help in that regard: Grandparents Gunna (Karen-Lise Mynster) and Poul (Lars Knutzon), long bitterly divorced, are sure to draw everyone else into their never-ending spat.

Even before the entire clan gathers at Katrine and Mads’ place, there’s a mandatory initial expedition to a church where recently ordained third sister Barbara (Sofie Grobel) is giving her first sermon — one much-interrupted by Adam (Sofus Sondergaard Mikkelsen), her hyperactive nightmare of a son by pompous author spouse Torben (Lars Brygmann). Barbara and Katrine are themselves locked into some long-simmering sibling rivalry, one bone of contention being their different past treatment of problematic Barbara. When the latter finally shows up, she complicates matters yet further by bringing along the husband nobody knew she had (Jakob Randrup) and his angelic young daughter by another woman (Troja Reppien Trovatten).

As this sincere attempt to have a wholesome, traditional holiday gathering devolves into drunken fights and inappropriate revelations, among the few who manage to stay outside of the fray are the hosts’ easygoing younger child Jens-Peter (Mikas Maximus Dalhoff Christiansen) and Mads’ own innocuous, generally-ignored parents (Bodil Lassen, Hans Holtegaard).

The parade of family dysfunctions keeps “That Time of Year” entertaining without actually lending it more than soap-operatic depth. It’s not “Surviving Christmas,” yet there’s a certain air of cheap, sitcom-ish cynicism to the proceedings that isn’t particularly funny, and which undermines the film’s occasional shift towards straight-faced drama. Its seriocomic mix might seem less artificial onstage, where the lack of looming close-ups wouldn’t make everything seem quite so broad.

The cast includes numerous formidable talents, not least Steen herself. But they’re all stuck trying to fill out two-dimensional roles in a directorial package heavier on generic professional gloss than conviction. The soundtrack of Yuletide standards by Elvis, Sinatra, Eddy Arnold, Gene Autry, Harry Belafonte et al. adds a layer of trite irony that, like so much else here, isn’t nearly as witty or surprising as it wants us to believe.

Film Review: 'That Time of Year'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 12, 2018. Running time: 103 MIN. (Original title: “Den Tid Pa Aret”)

Production: (Denmark) A Nordisk Film Production A/S presentation. (Int'l sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre.) Producer: Mikael Rieks. Executive producer: Henrik Zein.

Crew: Director: Paprika Steen. Screenplay: Jakob Weis, based on an idea by Steen. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Jens Schlosser. Editor: Jacob Thuesen.

With: Paprika Steen, Sofie Grabel, Karen-Lise Mynster, Lars Brygmann, Jacob Lohmann, Lars Knutzon, Fanny Leander Bornedal, Patricia Schumann, Jakob Randrup, Bodil Lassen, Hans Holtegaard, Mikas Maximus Dalhoff Christiansen, Sofus Sondergaard Mikkelsen, Troja Reppien Trovatten, Otto Leonardo Steen Rieks.

More Film

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Crosses $250 Million at Foreign Box Office

    Things are going swimmingly at the box office for “Aquaman” as the Warner Bros.’ superhero flick hits another major milestone overseas. James Wan’s take on the ruler of the seven seas just passed $250 million internationally, and a weekend haul of $126.4 million from 43 territories brings its foreign tally to $261.3 million. “Aquaman” — [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    'Mortal Engines' to Lose More Than $100 Million at Box Office

    “Mortal Engines,” a steampunk fantasy adventure, is also an epic flop. With a budget of just over $100 million and tens of millions in global marketing costs, executives at rival studios estimate that the movie will lose upwards of $100 million. Some even project that number could float to more than $125 million. “Mortal Engines” [...]

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content