06th Aug2020

‘One Way to Denmark’ VOD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Rafe Spall, Joel Fry, Steve Speirs, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Tim Woodward, Benedikte Hansen, Simone Lykke | Written by Jeff Murphy | Directed by Adrian Shergold

I believe it was the Beatles who once said “all you need is Rafe Spall” or something to that effect anyway… I have made no secret of the fact that when I find an actor or actress I like, I will go out of my way to watch them. It is a select group though, the likes of your Paddy Considine, Stephen Graham, Vicky McClue, Tom Hardy, Joe Gilgun to name a few (notice these are all Brits). The type of leading actors that can let a whole scene play out over their faces and not say a great deal but have me on the edge of my seat having heart palpitations. Another such actor who has been on my radar for some time now, and I genuinely feel is criminally underrated, is Rafe Spall.

From his small but memorable roles in the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Green Street or when he was mixing in it up in Hot Fuzz along side Paddy Considine himself (scene stealers of the movie for my money) to his leading role in 2017 thriller The Ritual and most recently in ITV mini series The Salisbury Poisonings (if you have not seen this, rectify that right now). These are just a few roles over the years but I guess what I am saying is that when Spall shows up on screen my interest is piqued… Even if it is Prometheus. So with an offering up of One Way to Denmark, a more independent title with Spall in the lead, of course I am going to give that a go.

Spall plays Herb. A down on his luck little Welshman who doesn’t have a whole lot going for himself other than an ability to fix random things. Just… not his own life, which is a mess. He is about to lose his benefits, He can’t get or hold down a job, his son refuses to speak to him, he has a neighbor who won’t shut up and a diet that consists mainly of cheap beer and mushy peas. Basically he is sick as shit and going nowhere. However, all of that is about to change upon discovering that Danish convicts live a luxurious life he could only dream of. He now has a plan. Herb decides to travel across Europe to Denmark with one thing on his mind, to get himself arrested and sent to a Danish prison where the beds are warm and the water is hot. But after meeting a local barmaid and a lovable stray dog who won’t leave his side, Herb begins to realize that prison may not be his only chance to get the life he is longing for. That, and his bottle seems to crash when coming to committing the crime.

Right… I am conflicted here truth be told. While I thoroughly enjoyed this master class in acting, the whimsical delightfully dark story and the fact that Denmark just looks gorgeous. I also feel like One Way to Denmark just fell a little bit short of knowing exactly what it wanted to be and what it wanted to do. There were moments I thought we could have a new In Bruges on our hands but it seemed to just move away from all out comedy. This is not a major complaint it just meant I was a little unsure of the vibe we were trying to hit. Unless it was to show that Wales is despair and Denmark is hope… Which I am okay with really.

Spall is wonderful as Herb and really walks you through the arc of this mans journey. He is hard to like at first and just seems like ‘woe is me’. You’re shouting at the screen for him to just wise up and stop feeling sorry for himself. Of course this is what Spall is supposed to be doing and in retrospect it was all perfect. While in Wales you can smell Herb’s desperation and eagerness to just get out and because everything is dark with him, it seems like prison would be an improvement. Once we get to Denmark we meet the real Herb, a hopeful Herb, a Herb with somewhat of a conscience. When he runs through the plan with his mates he is just so flippant but actually sat outside the bank he is conflicted and cant do it because deep down he really isn’t the guy in the mirror doing Taxi Driver impressions.

Enter Mathilda (Simone Lykke). Mathilda is a barmaid Herb meets almost immediately after getting to Denmark and she quickly and unknowingly becomes his hope and light. I personally love the relationship. They don’t take it to far during the film, really showing that yes Herb is changing but lets be real it doesn’t happen overnight. You can tell there is an attraction and these guys will find a place with each other but for now lets just get to know them… I loved this refreshing slow play on the romantic angle.

Absolutely check One Way to Denmark out. It is a strong recommend. For all I have said about Spall, the script is wonderful too. I could really get behind all of the motivations and those little beats before a scene kicking in, which is all down to the director – who I genuinely think had a clear idea in his mind but sometimes in the edit or other aspects the original idea changes. While I am not sure if the movie did everything it wanted to, I feel like it stayed on a course that I was happy with as a viewer. A beautiful, slowly-executed, mans realization that just because we are from one place doesn’t mean we cant make it to another.

One Way to Denmark is out now digitally via iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google and Rakuten.


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