The Exception tries to discuss many topics at once in this solid adaption. Alas, the runtime is the film’s enemy and by trying to touch on all of the threads from its book, it causes the film to lose itself. Despite this, we are still given a tense drama that is elevated by its four leads.
Four women work together at a small NGO in Copenhagen that specialises in genocide. When two of them receive death threats, they suspect a Serbian war criminal; but then they start suspecting and turning against each other.
There haven’t been many films filled with this level of paranoia and doubt for a while that shows humans at their worst. When we as a species begin to doubt one thing from one person, that world is broken not too long after. This isn’t even considering past traumas that some characters have already gone through. We now doubt everything and in the world in which these women work in. You need to find trust with someone, especially your colleagues. What happens when that is systematically broken by each individual in different ways?
For all of the danger these four women find themselves in by the end of The Exception, it starts with a message. An important one no doubt, but one that throws all four women and their social circle into a tailspin.
That said the tension that is threaded through the film is as uncomfortable as you can imagine. Four women who do not truly care for one another are in a situation where they must make it work, though, for Anne-Lise, she just cannot seem to make herself fit. This awkwardness between the four is what drives the film in it’s best moments. We have all been in that situation. Having a colleague who doesn’t quite click with others. Hell, we have probably been that person. This is where the film shines and when one moment should bring the group together to help one another. It causes them to splinter off even more aggressively and it is fascinating.
Without a doubt, The Exception lives and dies with its four leads. If any of these performances falter, the entire piece does. Luckily the four cast Iben (Danica Curcic), Malene (Amanda Collin), Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen) and Anne-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen) are exceptionally strong here. Each of their strengths as an actor come to the fore here and it is evident that they all help elevate each other so well. With a strong dynamic, not just as a group, but separately, we can relate to each character, even when they do things they shouldn’t. They are easily empathic enough to make what happens to each all the more heartbreaking.
The Exception slightly falters by seemingly trying too hard to shock the audience, there are obvious paths in which the film goes down and while the ending isn’t wholly unpredictable. It does feel as if we took a needlessly long way to get there. Which is strange considering how lean the film is narrative. Some moments are seemingly included for shock value or to further twist our thoughts process on the four leads and who sent the letter.
Despite that, it is still a strong film, though the complete breakdown of the final reveal at the end of the film, does seem forced. For a film that loves to throw in a sense of doubt, to not only cause the characters but the audience. It doesn’t need to have that full explanation at the end. Sometimes it is better off to leave a little bit of doubt for the audience. Leaving them guessing a little and have them think about what they saw.
The multiple layers and questions The Exception asks, occasionally cause it to get lost within itself. For example, as mentioned, some storylines appear to be there to throw us off the scent. But by doing so, it raises more questions on whether the film is subtly about that area. Or is it more based on the actual office dynamic and how one small trigger can cause an uncontrollable bomb to go off.
Does it focus on the trauma of the past and the difficulties of that recovery? For a sole film, it just feels like too much is being brought up without there being enough time to fully delve into it. Perhaps that is the point. Humans are complicated creatures. Sometimes needlessly so and instead of a straighter narrative we are given this multi-layered one to stew on.
The Exception falters due to its scope, but that shouldn’t detract you from catching it. This is a film that has a lot to offer and is worth viewing due to the phenomenally strong work from the four leads.
The Exception will be released across all major UK Digital Platforms on 22 January including iTunes, AppleTV, Sky Store, Google Play, Amazon, Virgin, Curzon Home Cinema & Chili (& BT on rental only from 1st Feb).
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