In case you are not already feeling like we are living within a Psychological Thriller these days, Denmark’s The Exception arrives in UK cinemas January 22nd and on demand January 25th through Parkland Entertainment to provide an escape from your own mind with a harsh look into the minds of others.
Originally titled Undtagelsen in its native Danish, and directed by Jesper W. Nielsen (Okay 2002, Through a Glass, Darkly 2008), The Exception is an adaptation by Christian Torpe of the best-selling Thriller novel by Christian Jungersen. This dark, twisty film is presented in Danish with English subtitles and takes a deep dive into the darkest corners of our humanity by exploring the complex relationships between four women in a small workplace whose daily routines include death threats, alliances, and psychological manipulation.
Iben (Danica Curcic: Silent Heart 2014, Darling 2017), Malene (Amanda Collin: Splitting Up Together 2016, A Horrible Woman 2017), Anne-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen: Inferno 2016, Westworld series), and Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen: Almost Perfect 2012, The Legacy series) work together in a quiet library that houses information on genocide.
It is clear that tension in the workplace is high, and a strong alliance between the others leaves Anne-Lise feeling targeted. When Iben and Malene receive mysterious death threats, suspicion lands on a Serbian War criminal the team have been writing about, but when paranoia sets in, it does not take long for the accusations to fly amongst co-workers. Uncovering the truth becomes a matter of life and death as each woman grapples with her own personal trauma amidst mounting manipulation and shifting power.
It should be noted first that The Exception does contain some disturbing imagery related to genocide, that the use of gaslighting and psychological manipulation may be triggering for some viewers. With that said, the intense exploration of the human mind and trauma is gripping. The film presents the idea that our minds are capable of great evil, and that we take part in little evils each and every day. There is little positivity to be found in its 115 runtime, but Nielsen builds tension so masterfully that you may find yourself at the edge of your seat without even realizing it. Those used to the more action-packed blockbuster Thrillers may lose interest, though, as The Exception is a very slow burn that focuses more on power balances rather than car chases and explosions.
For a film that delves so deeply into the minds and power struggles of women, it is often obvious that the film was written and directed by men. Too much focus on sex, boyfriends, and beauty makes the story fall flat at times. Still, the four main actors are exceptional, each bringing nuance and depth to their characters. The story is at its strongest when character-driven, and viewers may find their own suspicions shifting as the hidden struggles each woman grapples with comes to the forefront. However, the framework of their writing about genocide and continual mentioning of peoples’ capacity to do great evil is too on-the-nose, leading to some turns of events that test suspension of disbelief.
Full of twists and turns, The Exception is a slow—sometimes too slow—burn that is sure to keep you guessing until the very end if you are willing to stick with it. The film reads like a novel, unfolding slowly, but Nielsen’s direction is top-notch. Beautifully shot and visually stunning, The Exception is worth checking out for fans of intense Psychological Thrillers, but casual viewer may struggle with its dark subject matter and grim outlook on humanity. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Exception 3 out of 5 stars.