Depressingly, this Danish psychological thriller resurrects some pretty outdated sexist stereotypes with a quartet of emotionally manipulative, unsisterly and two-timing female characters. It comes to us from a trio of men: director Jesper W Nielsen and a script by Christian Torpe, who adapts Christian Jungersen’s bestselling novel about four women working at a small NGO investigating genocide. When they begin to receive death threats, their suspicions turn on each other – and the film plays with the possibility that inside each of them may lurk a crazy psycho bitch.
Danica Curcic plays Iben, an earnest researcher who was recently held hostage in Kenya by terrorists. Back in Copenhagen she is experiencing PTSD, at night seeing the child soldier who guarded her, a gentle, soulful-looking boy. Iben works at the NGO with her best friend Malene (Amanda Collin), a beautiful, complicated woman who shows cruel disregard for other people’s feelings. With the team administrator Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen) they snidely gang up on the new librarian Anne-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen). It’s Iben who gets the first threatening email. Everyone assumes the sender is a Serbian war criminal – but might it be Anne-Lise?
There is nothing wrong with the performances. The best-friend dynamic of Iben and Malene feels nicely complex and plausible – which is more than can be said for the rest of the film. The two women have recently co-authored a book exploring the psychology of war criminals, and its thesis is that most people have something inside them ready to commit evil. And their pass-agg workplace bullying appears to be meant as a small-scale equivalent of that tendency, leading to some truly absurd plot twists as the characters turn on each other.
Throughout the film I had the niggling feeling that at the bottom of it is a deep dislike of women – or, at the very least, a total lack of understanding.
• The Exception is available on digital platforms from 25 January.