Acclaimed Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier is about to make her American debut with 'Things We Lost in the Fire', starring a heavy-hitting cast that includes Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry. If she manages to bring as much emotion to the screen in that film as she does with the Oscar-nominated melodrama 'After the Wedding' ('Efter brylluppet'), then audiences are in for a treat.
A Danish ex-pat volunteer at an Indian orphanage in Mumbai, Jacob (Mikkelsen) is passionately devoted to his job. With mostly negative feelings towards the western world, he is unimpressed when he hears that he must travel to Copenhagen to meet a potential donor, the wealthy Jorgen (Lassgard), in person. Matters are not improved when Jorgen cuts short their meeting, instead insisting that Jacob come to his daughter Anna's (Christensen) wedding the following day. Needing the money for his work in India, Jacob has no choice but to turn up, setting in train a series of events that changes the lives of all four principal characters when he discovers that Jorgen's wife Helene (Knudsen) is an old flame of his from 20 years ago.
Although he initially comes across as a decent family man, having a good relationship with each of his three children - he also has lively pair of flaxen-haired twin boys - and Helene, Jorgen has an ulterior motive that emerges as the film progresses. This is humanity and family life on a small, but very intimate scale, given gravitas by Bier's masterful handling of her subject, strongly measured performances from the central foursome and a sharp script from Anders Thomas Jensen.
Mads Mikkelsen, who was memorable as card shark Le Chiffre in 'Casino Royale', is remarkable here as the self-centred aid worker who is torn between his responsibilities in India - where life is hard, but simple - and the emotional quandaries that he faces in Denmark. He is more than matched by Rolf Lassgard's benevolent billionaire with hidden depths as well as Sidse Babett Knudsen and Stine Fischer Christensen, the wife and daughter for whom things change irrevocably.
Although some suspension of disbelief is necessary, tears and hope sit side-by-side in this insightful and well-made film. A thought provoking and powerful drama.