The fragility of aging relationships takes center stage in The Commune, a tense vision of 1970's Denmark that manages to tell an honestly painful love story through unconventional yet believable means. Erik (an entirely unlikable Ulrich Thomsen) is a stuffy architecture professor who seems quick to anger and altogether unsuited for communal life. But when he inherits his sprawling childhood home after his father's death, Erik's wife Anna (Trine Dryholm of 2012's A Royal Affair) convinces him to embrace the ideals of the then-burgeoning concept, though it ultimately becomes their downfall in director Thomas Vinterberg's (2012's The Hunt) loosely-based retelling of his own childhood growing up in a commune of his own.
Erik wants to ditch the house for the money, but Anna, fearing the doldrums of a 15-year marriage, views the inheritance as an opportunity for growth. Old friends, flighty hippies and young couples join forces with Erik and Anna, and a family unit begins to form. But when Erik begins an affair with a young student named Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann), the betrayal runs deep. To Anna's credit, she tactfully agrees to see where it goes which is, of course, disastrous, and Erik's innate ability to gaslight his wife without the least bit of concern for her mental well-being is absolutely infuriating.
At times funny, The Commune straddles the line someplace between Wes Anderson-y character dramedy and uncomfortable cautionary tale, though rather than feel sad for its main characters, we ultimately pity their flawed humanity. Will people do the worst things when given enough rope and does idealism or misguided belief in others goeth before a fall? Either way, it's nice to see a character-driven film made well, even if one does wonder how the hell seemingly enlightened people could do such terrible things to one another. (Alex De Vore)
+ Beautiful, painfully realistic
- While believable, not entirely relatable