Director: Stijn Coninx | 110 minutes | romance, adventure | Actors: Francesca Vanthielen, Joachim Król, Rick Engelkes, Reidar Sorensen, Rodney Beddal, Marit Blling, Karin Lunden, Morten Rohrt, Per Skiolsvik
A Belgian actress who plays a Dutch and a German who plays a Danish man: that can’t go well, can it? And it doesn’t. “When the Light Comes” has therefore become a failed film that does not convince on any front. “When the Light Comes” is based on the autobiographical novel “Where is the light” by Heleen van der Laan.
Of course, it is not fair to judge a film solely on the rather unfortunate casting choice of the director. If “When the Light Comes” had only had to do with a Flemish actress who had to portray a typical Dutch girl with her soothing accent, then there was still an agreement. Numerous films use actors who use the most bizarre accents in the hope of properly portraying their character’s respective nationality. Just think of the historical epic “Alexander” (2004) where almost the entire cast spoke with an artificial accent. That film has been kicked into the ground by the entire guild of critics. But a film like “Enemy at The Gates” (2001) was still very enjoyable despite the strange accents.
Unfortunately, the criticism of Stijn Coninx’s film does not stop with the strange choice of casting. In short: Flemish actress Francesca Vanthielen is as irritating as the Dutch Ellen. Her character is arrogant, selfish and very childish. The spoiled brat continues to complain and whine throughout the movie. Every dip she has is accompanied by squeaking and howling violins, with Vanderthielen’s pout and big Bambi eyes to provide drama. But how on earth are you supposed to show sympathy for an insufferable girl who acts like a disadvantaged princess?
In addition, the never-ending stream of explanatory voice-overs does the film no good either. In these monologues, the frenetic repressed accent of the Flemish actress really stands out. Vanderthielen talks in a stately, wooden way about the feelings of her character. The childish way in which the diary fragments are told are very annoying and take way too long.
There is also a story to be told between the monologues. A story full of incredible moments and crazy plot twists. The course of events is absolutely out of sync and seems to have flickered in a blunt way. For example, the main character wants to do a holiday job at a trapper, but she reacts shocked and indignant when the man wants to kill a seal to strip his fur. The well-known violet then works overtime when the cute seal enters the picture. Well, furs do not grow on trees.
The pivot of the story is the relationship between the trapper, reasonably interpreted by the German Król and Ellen. At first, the student is disgusted by the contact-disturbed Dane, but gradually she likes him more and more. The fact that the plot of “When the Light Comes” is wafer-thin does not necessarily have to be an obstacle. The film “The Snow Walker” (2003) proved that you can make a strong, atmospheric film with a similar, minimalistic starting point. Coninx goes wrong with the appalling casting, the rickety script and the annoying characters.
The relationship between the two is never convincing. There is no chemistry, no enthusiasm, nothing at all. The clashing characters just don’t show up. That cannot be entirely attributed to the actors, the script does not cooperate either. So you have the bitchy hellie on one side and a passive, contact-disturbed man on the other. The man just lets everything get over him and swallows all insults at his address like sweet cake. It should come as no surprise that this combination does not exactly produce spectacular cinema.
In addition, the silent trapper Lars does not want to come to life. His rather horny character does not help. A man who keeps silent and only opens his mouth to vent his sexual urges from nowhere is not exactly an interesting or appealing character. Yet as a viewer you are condemned to him, because he is an essential part of the film.
A minor portion of “When The Light Comes” is filled by “soapy” Rick Engelkes. The name of the Dutch actor is prominent on the poster of this film, but he is barely 5 minutes on the screen. Engelkes’ acting is limited by the broad display of his indelible grin and some mumbling.
Halfway through the film, a polar bear who has broken loose must provide some tension. If that then apparently does not go to full satisfaction according to the makers, the secret weapon is pulled out of the closet know. That’s right: sex. Out of nowhere, the two suddenly find each other very nice. Apparently that had to become clear after a funny series of slips on the ice, because all of a sudden the two began to laugh hard at each other. This kind of crooked plot twists and abruptly broken storylines pave the way for broadly drawn-out, clinical sex scenes in which Vanderthielen’s chest plays the leading role.
Before the lovemaking session begins, Coninx makes way for a completely irrelevant shower scene in which the naked body of the lead actress had to provide some eroticism. Now Vanderthielen certainly looks good, but she’s clearly uncomfortable in the misplaced nude scenes. The cold, detached way in which Coninx portrays it naked will not excite even an adolescent with an unstoppable hormone balance.
Is there nothing positive to say about this film? Well not by this reviewer. Apparently the critics quite liked the film because this product has won three awards and three nominations at various festivals. All that remains after seeing “When the Light Comes” is trapper Lars’ poignant quote as he bites off in a rare moment: “You’re no trapper, you’re a tourist!”
You cannot put it more aptly. This cinematic mishmash full of actors from various corners of the world feels like a hellish holiday without end. A trip in which that horny German and that empty-headed Flemish girl are constantly on your lip and begging for your attention. A journey that leaves you hopelessly frustrated as an uninhibited tourist. There is no better reason to book cancellation insurance.