Exceptional performances and sensitive direction by Maria Sødahl, drawing on her own experiences, drive this impressive and moving drama.
Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) and Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) are artists whose life and work are indivisible. Anja is a celebrated dance choreographer whose company has just enjoyed and international tour. Tomas’ situation is less rosy. A theatre director whose best days appear to be behind him, he feels listless at not finding the material that will spark his passion. They have three young children who get on with Tomas’ three from a previous marriage. But the couple’s relationship is rocky, made uneven by Tomas’ professional unhappiness and overbearing self-interest. But a doctor’s visit, just before Christmas, finds Anja’s cancer has returned. She chooses not to tell her family, so that they can enjoy the holiday season, but her relationship with Tomas becomes increasingly tense.
Like Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond impressive 2021 drama My Little Sister, Sødahl’s film, which she also wrote, focuses less on Anja’s illness and more on her relationship with Tomas and how the sparks between them encompass their extended family. Hovig and Skarsgård are superb as the couple, conveying the complexity of their situation and feelings, which shift by the minute. (As evidenced during one sex scene.) But it would be hard to fault the performance of any cast member in a film whose richness lies in the attention it pays to the details of domestic life.