© Alamode Film/Filmagentinnen

The Kindness of Strangers - Kleine Wunder unter Fremden (The Kindness of Strangers)
Denmark/Canada/Sweden/France/Germany/U.K. 2019

Opening 12 Dec 2019

Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Writing credits: Lone Scherfig
Principal actors: Andrea Riseborough, Bill Nighy, Zoe Kazan, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Jack Fulton

In carefully orchestrated moves, Clara (Zoe Kazan) leaves home with, unbeknownst to Richard (Esben Smed), sons Anthony (Jack Fulton) and Jude(Finlay Wojtak-Hissong). In a New York City hospital, selfless Alice (Andrea Riseborough) runs between ER stations. Jeff’s (Caleb Landry Jones) company fires him – “Name just one thing you’re good at…” Celebrating in the luxurious ‘White Palace’ Russian restaurant, Marc (Tahar Rahim) and John Peter (Jay Baruchel) are oblivious to a “regular” arriving, and Timofey’s (Bill Nighy) query, “the usual?” All are straddling despair during personal crises, yet girdled by the metropolis’ affluence, and squalor. Their paths fatefully cross, the ‘White Palace’ becomes pivotal, and possibly, kindnesses of others will create allies that might make a difference.

Writer-director Lone Scherfig probes the watershed of each character’s experiences thoughtfully, without pretension or histrionics in this comedy-drama. Many in the Dane’s cast are linchpins of such weighty films as Their Finest (2016), The Riot Club (2014), An Education (2009). They nonverbally convey much more than the scripted dialogue, e.g., in the opening scene as Clara and sons leave, a premonitory undercurrent is obvious. Deirdre Bowen’s casting is spot-on; Andrew Lockington’s music fluctuates with the emotional changes that are reinforced by Sebastian Blenkov’s cinematography. Cam McLauchlin’s editing is masterful in its ability to fluently connect series of onscreen events. 

These compelling combinations of character studies evocatively, and humorously, probe human behavior, and life’s demands on women. For many, resignation oftentimes becomes a survival tool: “…[J]ust open your eyes – just don’t give up.” Ms. Scherfig forcefully demonstrates this near the end, when Alice is candid during a Forgiveness Group session. People forget a smile and encouraging words are things that cost nothing, other than showing kindness and compassion that can make all the difference. 112 minutes  (Marinell Haegelin)

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