The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - THE EXCEPTION | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - THE EXCEPTION

the exception review
The female staff of a centre for studies in genocide receive threatening emails.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jesper W. Nielsen

Starring: Amanda Collin, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Lene Maria Christensen, Danica Curcic, Olaf Johannessen, Magnus Krepper

the exception poster

The complexities of international politics meets the intimacy of office politics in director Jesper W. Nielsen's adaptation of novelist Christian Jungersen's Danish bestseller The Exception.

Godard famously said that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun, but The Exception makes the case that all you need is a girl and a grudge. Like a gender reversed Glengarry Glen Ross, much of the drama is set within the confines of an office, as a quartet of women become engulfed in paranoia as they attempt to rat out the person responsible for ongoing internet harassment.

the exception review

The office in question is home to an NGO devoted to researching and documenting genocide. When three of its staffers - researchers Iben (Danica Curcic) and Malene (Amanda Collin), and secretary Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen) - receive anonymous emails containing death threats, two suspects immediately fall into place. Could it be Mirko Zigic (Borut Veselko), the former Serbian warlord turned mobster they're currently investigating? Or perhaps it's simply their colleague, Anna-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen), whom the three women seem to despise for no apparent reason?

If you're expecting simple answers, forget about it. Nielsen populates his film with so many character revelations and plot twists that you'll be left guessing until the final frames, and even then you may not be entirely sure who the guilty party is. Or should I say the guiltiest party, as we gradually learn that all four women are hiding sins of varying degrees, and harbour various grudges against their co-workers.

the exception review

In my experience, people with "bad" politics (ie those who hold ignorant and outdated views) often tend to be nicer people when it comes to one on one interactions than those with "good" politics, who too often are exposed as exactly the sort of snobs and bigots they claim to be fighting against. The Exception gets to this curious dynamic in its portrayal of Iben and Malene, a pair of "right on" progressives whose admirable work in exposing the crimes of Zigic run counter to their despicable bullying of Anna-Lise.

When watching foreign language movies, it can be difficult to pick up on class dynamics. If I'm watching an American, British or Irish film I can immediately place a character within a social class by their accent, but I have no idea how to differentiate between accents in non-English speaking nations. As such, I found myself wondering if the stigmatising of Anna-Lise was rooted in class. She appears to live in a very plush home, but she may have married into wealth. There's certainly a gulf in sophistication between Anna-Lise and her colleagues, as illustrated in a difficult to watch scene where she attempts to curry favour with her coworkers by sharing a "humorous" YouTube clip that appears to offend the middle class sensibilities of Iben, Malene and Camilla.

the exception review

Knudsen plays the moment in a manner that's truly heartbreaking, and even if she is the one responsible for the threatening emails, by that point we can understand why she might be compelled to take such action. While we still have doubts regarding her innocence, Anna-Lise gradually becomes the closest the film has to a sympathetic protagonist, though the movie's one storytelling misstep comes when Anna-Lise's fantasies of murdering her colleagues are visually illustrated in a manner that recalls John Cusack's dream of killing Tim Robbins in High Fidelity.

In this MeToo era we've seen quite a few movies explore the idea of women being gaslit by men, so it's refreshing to see women as the antagonists in such a scenario. Anyone who has ever lived with a woman has no doubt heard stories of how "that bitch in the office has it in for me," and with The Exception, Nielsen takes this familiar concept and expands it out from the privacy of the workplace to a De Palma-esque thriller that brings war criminals and assassinations into the picture. Ultimately, for all its political thriller trappings, it's the performances of the four women at its centre that make The Exception such a compelling watch.

The Exception
 is on UK Digital from January 22nd.

2021 movie reviews