Review: Persona non grata – Hvor kragerne vender (2021)

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Persona non grata – Hvor kragerne vender (2021)

Directed by: Lisa Jespersen | 91 minutes | comedy | Actors: Rosalinde Mynster, Anne Sofie Wanstrup, Jens Jørn Spottag, Adam Ild Rohweder, Saga Nikoline Linde Mikkelsen, Bodil Jørgensen, Thomas Hwan, Jesper Groth, Palmi Gudmundsson

‘Persona non grata’ is a film about childhood trauma, seen from the perspective of a misunderstood outsider. Laura (Rosalinde Mynster) lives in Copenhagen, where she has built a successful career as a writer. She grew up in the Danish countryside, but hasn’t been here in years. However, this changes when her brother gets married. She returns to her family farm and takes her boyfriend Benjamin (Thomas Hwan) with her. Laura is confronted again with her past when it turns out that her brother is getting married to Catrine, an old classmate of hers. This opens up all of Laura’s old wounds.

Family celebrations in movies seem destined to bring pent-up feelings and underlying trauma to the surface. When the festivities in question have started, you already know that things won’t stay comfortable for long. With her debut film ‘Persona Non Grata’ Lisa Jespersen makes perhaps one of the most representative performances of this type of film. All the necessary elements are there, and the plot neatly follows the formula. That has both advantages and disadvantages.

In his major breakthrough film ‘Festen’ (1998), Thomas Vinterberg played extensively with the perils that can arise at a Danish family celebration. The success of ‘Festen’ has resulted in many imitators over the years. ‘Persona non grata’ can be seen as such an imitator. Now that is by definition not bad, but the realization that a better version is permanently available does weaken the appeal of this film. So what did ‘Festen’ do better? Simple: Thomas Vinterberg was uncompromising at all times.

Where ‘Persona non grata’ often opts for the more easy and transparent paths, ‘Festen’ is unrelenting and challenging. It is a film that never gives easy answers. Lisa Jespersen has more trouble with this, her film is ultimately a lot braver. In many ways, her film falls just short. Laura is an interesting main character and Rosalinde Mynster portrays her respectably, but the other characters often lack charm and credibility. The plot isn’t much better.

Childhood trauma has been used more often and better in films. As a result, you get the feeling that you’ve seen all this before. ‘Persona non grata’ is certainly easily manageable, but innovative or compelling? Not quite.

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