Parents (2016)


Directed by Christian Tafdrup
Country: Denmark

Part nostalgic family drama, part preposterous fantasy, “Parents” stumbles in its vague ambition of becoming a hit sensation.

Danish actor turned director, Christian Tafdrup, designed a story that failed to deliver any reward after 86 minutes exploring the impalpable.

The debutant filmmaker builds an interesting premise as he depicts an aging couple, Kjeld (Søren Malling) and Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen), facing new challenges in their comfortable but somewhat boring life. They’re having a hard time coping with the permanent absence of their young adult son, Esben (Anton Honik) who recently has moved into his own apartment with his girlfriend Sandra (Emilia Imperatore Bjørnvad).

Kjeld loves his wife and does everything for her. However, he’s visibly disappointed with the course his life has taken. One can sense he expects much more from this relationship with the impassionate Vibeke, a despondent mother who shows a steep dependence on her son.

Feeling a bit lost and aimless, husband and wife will gain a new breath when they relocate to a smaller house, the same they had lived thirty years ago while still studying. When Sandra breaks up with Esben, his mother visibly rejoices with the possibility of getting him back. These characters seem not to have friends and we don't see them interact with anyone else rather than the family. 

Weirder tones dominate the second half of the film, after Kjeld and Vibeke inexplicably wake up one morning thirty years younger, but still living in the present time. This was exactly the opportunity Kjeld was hoping for to bring his wife closer to him again, at least physically. However, and for our surprise, the young Vibeke (Miri Ann Beuschel) starts an incestuous relationship with the spoiled Esben, while the forlorn Kjeld (Elliott Crosset Hove) continues obsessively sculpting and arranging the house in order to make it look exactly how it was before.

These surreal occurrences get you baffled and alert, and yet the film never pays you back. In truth, the unsolved puzzle suggests many things, metaphorically speaking, but the psychological drama advances without objectivity, hobbling in its cold energy and hampering me from drawing any satisfaction from its observation.

Tafdrup directed with both confidence and competence and the cinematography by Maria von Hausswolff was valuable. On the other hand, the acting didn’t always feel solid.

Some other films succeeded by persistently dwelling in this sort of unintelligible limbo, however, “Parents” didn’t have that special tone capable of making me search unconditionally until the last minute.