In his films Nightwatch and The Substitute, Danish director Ole Bornedal established his attraction to the intersection of the fantastic and the everyday. Whether it's a morgue worker accused of murdering prostitutes or a sixth-grade class convinced that their new teacher is an alien, Bornedal enjoys placing ordinary people in absurd situations, then calibrating the outlandish until it becomes plausible. In Bornedal's latest film, Just Another Love Story, Anders Berthelsen plays a crime-scene photographer who grudgingly tolerates a family life devoid of adventure and low on sexual passion. After a distraught Rebecka Hemse sideswipes Berthelsen's car on her way to a horrific crash, he visits her in the hospital, where her family assumes he's her boyfriend. When Hemse comes out of her coma with amnesia, Berthelsen continues the deception, only to discover that impersonating Hemse's lover can be a dangerous hobby.
Bornedal has claimed that Just Another Love Story was inspired by guilt over his own marital infidelity; as a result, the movie plays as a simultaneous apology, justification, and self-flagellation. Bornedal takes pains to depict Berthelsen's wife as a sweet, loving woman, if maybe a little too preoccupied with kids and social responsibilities to understand that scheduling sex twice a week (down from a more spontaneous five times a week) is killing her husband inside. And Bornedal makes his hero a kindly, sympathetic gent who fills Hemse in on the fake details of their life together as though trying to correct every mistake he ever made.
Just Another Love Story is enjoyably moody in the early going, and it develops into a decent Hitchcockian thriller at times. But in spite of some stylish sequences—such as Hemse's slow-motion crash, in which the glass splintering from her windshield makes her car look like the interior of a snow globe—the story follows too narrow a path, dead-ending in typically nihilistic art-film violence. (This would be the self-flagellation.) The movie is better when Berthelsen is suffering through his wife pestering him about toilet paper, or when a medical examiner is holding up a human brain and explaining the biological origins of the love impulse. In those places, Just Another Love Story is more unsettlingly ruminative, asking whether any romance—mundane or movie-ish—is worth the effort