One Way to Denmark (2019) – Film Review
Director: Adrian Shergold
Cast: Rafe Spall, Simone Lykke, Thomas Gabrielsson
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
Rafe Spall gives a memorable performance in this bittersweet fish-out-of-water comedy drama. It slowly dawns on me after 10 minutes that Adrian Shergold also helmed Funny Cow, one of the bleakest dramas of recent years. He’s a master at constructing compelling dramas with characters trapped in joyless personal prisons.
In this case it’s Herb, a 34-year-old Welshman with a knack for fixing things. But he can’t get a proper job, has an estranged son; he’s lost his welfare; has a neighbour who plays incessant music, and Herb’s diet consists mainly of cheap beer and mushy peas. Little wonder he’s so depressed.
After discovering Danish convicts live a luxurious life he could only dream of, Herb decides to travel across Europe with one goal: to get arrested and sent to a Danish prison. However, after meeting Mathilda, a local barmaid, and a lovable stray dog who won’t leave his side, Herb realises that prison may not be his only chance to get the life he hoped for.
“Never strikes a false note”
Though the film could become a generic romcom, with Herb drifting into a ready made family, it’s not quite so formulaic as that. As the tale unfolds, it’s hard not to hope Herb will do the right thing, but he’s a troubled soul. To paraphrase Springsteen, like a dog that’s been beat too much, he’s damaged by circumstances, and those wounds don’t heal overnight.
As with Funny Cow, Richard Hawley provides some terrific songs, and Jeff Murphy’s script never strikes a false note.
With a star-making turn from Simone Lykke as Mathilda, this really gets under the skin. At 91 minutes it never outstays its welcome, and the fact it left me hungry for more is testament to its success.
Rafe Spall has long been one of showbusiness’s most in-demand actors, and this is one of his finest turns to date. Highly recommended.