Queen of Hearts review – addictive study of infidelity in picture-perfect life

There’s a core of steel to this very enthralling and glossy movie from Danish-Egyptian director and co-writer May el-Toukhy. It’s exactly the kind of drama that might prove binge-worthily addictive if it was a three- or four-part series on a streaming platform. As a standalone feature film, it had me on the edge of my seat.

Trine Dyrholm gives a terrific performance in the sophisticated and sexually candid style that she does so well. (Watching a previous film of hers, The Commune, I found myself thinking of the steamy 70s TV show Bouquet of Barbed Wire; the same thought occurred to me now.) Dyrholm is Anne, an accomplished lawyer who is currently acting for the victim in a rape case; she is impeccably liberal and enlightened in the matter of sexual politics. Anne is married to a doctor, Peter (Magnus Krepper), and they have two charming twin girls, but their picture-perfect life has something emotionally stagnant in it.

The problem comes when Peter’s troubled teenage son from a previous marriage – the truculent, aggressive Gustav (Gustav Lindh) – comes to live with them. Anne catches Gustav in an act of stealing and uses this to pressure him into behaving better – and this hold she has over him ignites some complex feelings in her, especially when she is secretly excited to overhear Gustav having sex with a girl he brings back to the house. Soon they are having an affair, and this clandestine situation reveals something dishonest and predatory in Anne that she cannot recognise in herself.

Many films would be content to let the plot wind down in a predictably painful and sorrowing way with that dramatic event, but el-Toukhy and Dyrholm keep us off-balance with some very suspenseful touches and present something intriguingly and even pathologically cold in Anne. The film genuinely has something tragic in it, and Dyrholm is outstanding.

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Queen of Hearts is available on Mubi from 7 November.



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