Opening in theaters this weekend is easily one of the best independent and foreign films of the year. While The Intouchables and Amour are still the odds on favorites to pick up numerous awards and accolades over the next few months, A Royal Affair could very easily play the role of dark horse spoiler.
Trying to convince most people to sit through a two hour plus foreign period film can be a chore in itself. Below, we list just a few reasons you might want to catch A Royal Affair over the next few weekends and why it's easily one of the best films of the year.
Mads Mikkelsen gives a thoroughly commanding and award-worthy performance. The name may sound familiar, especially to James Bond fans who will flock to theaters this weekend to catch Skyfall. Mikkelsen played the Bond baddie Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. He's since moved on to star in films like Valhalla Rising, Clash of the Titans and last year's The Three Musketeers. From the moment he appears on screen, he exudes a commanding presence and a stark contrast to Mikkel Boe Folsgaard's insecure, immature and ultimately insane King Christian VII. If it weren't for the doppleganger-like performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Mikkelsen could easily join Joaquin Phoenix and John Hawkes as a nominee for best actor in several awards races.
Alicia Vikander is a star in the making. The Swedish actress also stars in Anna Karenina, also opening next weekend. While she takes a supporting role in Karenina, in Affair, all eyes are on her. The former ballerina spent two months studying and becoming fluent in Dutch. Whereas it's often easy to see through actors speaking in a foreign tongue, in Affair, Vikander is flawless. Along with a stirring performance, she portrays Queen Caroline Mathilde with a quiet sensuality and unnerving strength. Big things are sure to come from her.
The writing and directing are superb. As mentioned above, sitting through a two hour plus foreign period film can be quite a chore. But never while watching this film does it drag or feel like it's never going to end. The storylines are lively, the direction is fluid and all the while, we're being led down this thoroughly absorbing true story from European history filled with a sense of intrigue.
The film picked up the AFI Fest Audience Award last night and won the Silver Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival for Best Actor (Mikkelsen) and Screenplay and was nominated for the Golden Bear (the equivalent of Best Picture for the festival). This is just the beginning of what should be many accolades for the film.
There's plenty of films arriving in theaters over the next few weekends that will contend for statuettes and accolades at the beginning of next year. The foreign film race often gets cast aside as a niche category reserved for film buffs and international audiences. A Royal Affair is good enough to leap frog out of that category and contend in other award categories, be they during the Golden Globes, local critic awards or, the big show, the Academy Awards.