Capsule Review – Queen of Hearts (Sydney Film Fest 2019)

On paper, Queen of Hearts looks like a throwback to the trashy thrillers of the 1990’s, to the point that one would expect Michael Douglas to show up in a cameo appearance. But the final result is one of the most intense and positively unfathomable experiences of the year. The filmmaking is spot-on, the acting is brilliant and it has one of the best third-act curveballs in recent memory that makes you want to watch it again to pick up the clues and foreshadowing.

Director May el-Toukhy manages to create a beautifully fantastical, yet depraved world for our lead character, Anne, who is struggling to contain her inner desires and battling her burdens from her work as a lawyer (which consists of handling cases involving violence against women), as she wants some sort of release as well as a measure of control (or self-entitlement) in her life (which is solidified in a scene where Anne is swimming in the lake, “literally” bathing in the sun.) and her circumstances.

El-Toukhy also manages to twist the trash thriller formula by switching the tables as we follow the seducer rather than the seduced, which introduces more opportunities to play with (no pun intended) like what goes through the mind of Anne before she pulls off the act that propels the plot forward.

But none of it would work without the fantastic performance by Trine Dryholm (looking like a doppelganger of Robin Wright and Helen Mirren), as she delivers a believably conflicted(?) and sneaky performance, while Magnus Krepper is good as the stepson, who convincingly conveys the angst and the arrogance of his character wanting to go in the deep end.

Engrossing and appalling in the best of ways, Queen of Hearts is a film that will surely get under your skin and stay in your mind for a very long time.

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