TIFF Review – In the Blood

Medical student Simon (Kristoffer Bech) lives with three friends in a suburb of Copenhagen. Although he is an excellent student, Simon spends most of his nights getting as high as possible, and almost deliberately sabotaging his relationships. When his three friends decide to sell their apartment, this causes a rift between them, and Simon struggles to see the problems in his behaviour.

Screening at the Toronto Film Festival, and brought to the screen by Rasmus Heisterberg in his directorial debut, In the Blood is a film about existential boredom, and the idea that no matter how far we run from home, we cannot run away from ourselves.

Kristoffer Bech leads the cast as Simon, and through his nuanced performance, allows the audience to root for the character, as we turn against him and see the truth of his behaviour. It is not that Simon is an anti-hero as such, but a character whose self-destructive behaviour and flaws are obvious from the outside, but not to him. The rest of the cast features Mads Reuther, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Esben Dalgaard Andersen, Aske Bang, Elliott Crosset Hove and Trine Runge as the friends and lovers caught up in Simon’s destructive orbit.

Rasmus Heisterberg is no stranger to writing for the big screen – with titles including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and A Royal Affair to his name as a writer – and he has created characters that are fully rounded and understandable, even though they are not particularly likeable. Heisterberg makes Simon seem compulsive in his behaviour, and even though he knows his drinking and drug use is out of hand, he doesn’t see the point in stopping as he has yet to suffer any consequences from his actions. The film is set over a period of several months, and although this gives the audience the feeling that Simon is not someone who has suddenly spun out of control, it does lead to the film struggling through a languid and unengaging pace. As well as this, the idea that Simon’s predisposition to drink is something he cannot avoid is alluded to in the title, but it doesn’t seem to be something the character particularly struggles with throughout the film, even as he alienates those around him.

As director, Heisterberg allows the characters who orbit Simon to feel real, and their seeming reluctance to confront their friend feels as though it comes from real life experience. So too does the idea that all of Simon’s friends are moving on with their lives, whereas he is stuck I the same patterns he was when he left school. The film struggles with some slow pacing, and some rather obvious plot points, but it is gratifying to see Simon begin to change as his pigeons come home to roost.

In all, In the Blood is an interesting look at friendship and patience, and the character of Simon is carefully written and well acted, so as to be likeable and hateable at the same time. Where the film falls down is with its languid pace, and the fact that Simon never really struggles with his behaviour until the film is almost out of time.

Rating: 3/5

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