EN FAMILIE (A FAMILY) is a small Danish film that explores the intimacies and delicate threads that hold families together. It is quiet, contemplative, and pulls the viewer into the film to the point where every member of this family is someone with whom we can closely relate.
The film opens in a very unique manner: black and white snapshots give the history of the Rheinwald family, beginning with the great grandfather who walked form Germany to Denmark carrying a sack of grain through the gradual creation and building of a bakery always run by family, a bakery that becomes the purveyors of baked goods to the Royalty of Denmark. Once the story begins we meet the elder chief of the bakery Rikard Rheinwald (Jesper Christensen) who despite the past year of being on chemotherapy for lung cancer has survived and remains the driving force behind the successful family business. Rikard has two daughters by his first failed marriage - Ditte (Lene Maria Christensen) who owns an art gallery and has a live-in boyfriend Peter (Johan Philip 'Pilou' Asbæk) who is an artist, and the younger daughter Chrisser (Line Kruse) - and lives now with his girlfriend Sanne (Anne Louise Hassing) with whom he has two more children, Line (Coco Hjardemaal) and Werner (Gustav Fischer Kjærulff). Ditte has been offered a prominent position with Gagosian Gallery in New York and she and Peter plan to move there.
When the letter from the hospital arrives stating the Rikard has no more lung cancer the family celebrates; Rikard marries Sanne and all seems well. An unexpected physical development occurs and leads to a diagnosis of inoperable cerebral metastases. Rikard, feeling defeated, hates hospitals and insists on being at home instead of a hospice. He informs Ditte that as his eldest child she is the one to inherit the Rheinwald Bakery. Ditte is severely conflicted. She and Peter have made signifiant decisions about their relationship and Ditte must choose between following her father's mandate or living her own dreams. The manner in which this family is affected by the gradual demise of the patriarch is deeply touching and realistic. In the end this story explores every aspect of the meaning of family - birth to death - in a manner that allows the audience to understand the actions and motivations of each member.
The cast is exceptional, with the performances of Jesper Christensen and Lene Maria Christensen being particularly sensitive. Kim Fupz Aakeson wrote the story and screenplay with writer director Pernille Fischer Christensen. The moody interiors as captured by cinematographer Jakob Ihre remind us of the paintings of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi. This is finely wrought little film that is one of the most tender views of family on film.