A seemingly classic redemption story, Troubled Water follows the character of Thomas (Sverre Valheim Hagen), who serves an eight year prison term for the murder of a young boy. We witness the halting, awkward steps Thomas takes to set his life back on track: first a job, then an apartment, and finally, a chance at love, happiness, forgiveness. Until his secret is inevitably revealed. What is unusual about Troubled Water is in the details. Thomas finds work as an organist at a Catholic church. The woman (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) he loves is not only the priest at this church; she is also the single mother of a young, blond son who eerily resembles the child Thomas killed.
Trine Dyrholm in a scene from 'Troubled Water.'Paradox Spillefilm
The first half of Troubled Water
is certainly well told, but Poppe's film rises to another level altogether when the story switches to the perspective of the murdered child's mother (Trine Dyrholm). In a festival of many discoveries, Dyrholm was the most exciting. (She also starred in another festival premiere, Pernille Fischer Christensen's Dancers
, which coincidentally takes on the subject of redemption.)
Dyrholm is an extraordinary actress. In Troubled Water, the character of Agnes becomes unhinged: she transforms from a seemingly adjusted person -- a school teacher and married mother of two adopted girls -- to a deranged stalker and kidnapper. Her children sense the change: in one unforgettable scene, Agness' youngest daughter screams "Mommy brought Isaac home!" while her husband stares in horror and one more unexpected person races in.
The intensity level of Troubled Water runs sky high. The story is small in scope, focusing on a handful of people whose lives are ripped apart by a lost youth's mindless crime. For this cast of characters, however, the entire world is no bigger than this one story - and it is riveting. At the film's climax, the parallel stories of Thomas and the Agnes merge into the claustrophobic, impossible yet altogether believable space of an automobile.