Herb (Rafe Spall) finds himself in a funk when he feels like his life is falling to pieces. He can’t hold a job down, has no relationship with his son, a neighbour that keeps blasting music out all hours of the day and night, and he’s lost his welfare. Realising he can’t continue living the way he is, Herb happens upon some information about how well prisoners are treated in Denmark. Deciding to ditch his old life, Herb sets off to Denmark with the sole aim of getting arrested and imprisoned to improve his life.
One Way to Denmark sounds like a madcap adventure and to an extent it is. While the film isn’t quite the laugh-a-minute it promises to be, it does succeed in having a truly original premise that is sure to hook film fans in. The early part of the film shows just how miserable Herb’s life is and Rafe Spall is brilliant, bringing his acting clout and charm to every scene he’s in. Herb’s life has spiralled out of control and he can’t even stand to be around his mother, who is pretty much the only person willingly in his life.
The final straw arrives when Herb is mugged by a gang of kids and that’s when he makes the decision to go forward with his bonkers plan. What he doesn’t count on is that by travelling so far away from home, he may actually find a purpose in life that he didn’t have before. Hell-bent on getting to prison, Herb is caught off-guard by friendly Danish woman Sofie (Benedikte Hansen) and her friendship makes him reconsider what he’s planning to do.
Where One Way to Denmark succeeds is in capturing a man who has reached the lowest point he can get. It’s clear that Herb’s problems extend further than the surface level upsets we learn about, and he’s actually probably depressed. He’s a man who has lost everything and feels like he has no place in the world anymore. With that in mind, you can understand why he would want to go live in a luxurious Danish prison rather than continue his mundane life at home.
The film’s uneven tone is part of its issues. It sets itself up as a comedy but the laughs are actually few and far between. The whimsical tone it has at the start, vanishes without a trace by the mid-point and never returns. The shift from comedy to drama isn’t one that works particularly well and it leaves the film with a bit of an identity crisis.
One Way to Denmark certainly has its moments but it’s a little too uneven to be a complete success. Rafe Spall, as always, is brilliant and he does carry the film but even his charm can’t save the film during its lowest points. The end brings things back to a more engaging level and there’s a very heartwarming scene where you realise the extent of Herb’s misery, but it comes a little too late to really make an impact.
Cast: Rafe Spall, Joel Fry, Steve Speirs, Benedikte Hansen Director: Adrian Shergold Writer: Jeff Murphy Certificate: 15 Duration: 91 mins Released by: Blue Finch Film Releasing Release date: 20th July