In 18th-century Denmark, the unstable King Christian VII neglects his young queen, Mathilde, who falls in love with his German physician, Struensee, an intellectual whose advocation of reform transforms the country but brings about his own downfall.
It’s the Age of Enlightenment, but Denmark ain’t having it. They rather like their censorship and religious oppression, thankyouverymuch. And that’s the world Caroline Mathilde of Great Britain has married into. (Why Netflix refers to her as only Mathilde is beyond me, since she uses Caroline in the movie.)
But something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Caroline’s marriage to King Christian VII is a sham, and his reign suffers due to his mental instability. When Johann Struensee becomes Christian’s personal physician, the good doctor provides a calming presence for the king. And the queen, too… in bed. As Struensee’s influence over Christian grows, so too do the number of progressive reforms — and the ire of the royal court.
Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Struensee
For the majority of English-speaking audiences, Mads Mikkelsen is a Bond villain, a knight of the Round Table, or, most recently (AND AWESOMELY), a doctor that really sinks his teeth into his body of work. But if you have trouble picturing Hannibal Lecter as a romantic lead, here are some palette cleansers.
Alicia Vikander as Caroline Mathilde
The rest of the cast is unfamiliar to me, though Alicia Vikander was rumoured to be in the running for Fifty Shades. Given what I know about the book and Alicia’s performance here as a poised and mature Caroline, she’s obvi all wrong for the part.
Mikkel Følsgaard as Christian VII
And kudos to Mikkel Følsgaard. I started off hating Christian, but ended up having the most sympathy for him. When it becomes clear that Christian’s erratic behaviour goes much deeper than royal eccentricity, it’s super gross to see him used as a pawn for everyone else’s agenda.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Medium
While a subtitled historical political drama doesn’t seem like gabfest material, it may be therapeutic to real-time rant about the AWFUL royal court. The movie does have its swoony parts — after all, “affair” is right there in its title — although I wouldn’t categorize it as a romance. (Netflix begs to differ. Agree to disagree, then.) There are some sexytimes, but no actual bodice ripping — hooray for sensible garment care! Speaking of which, the costumes are FAB. (Well, minus all the squished chesticles on the ladies.)
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Sporadic to None
This is actually a good movie, y’all — no alcohol necessary! Also: SUBTITLES. Although you might feel like hitting the bottle in response to horrible (and sometimes not-horrible) people doing horrible things
Use of Your Subscription: Excellent
I’m not a huge fan of period pieces. My general rule of thumb: the less elaborate the costumes, the better. (Until it goes too far and enters nudist territory, I mean.) But DIZANG, do I love real history! And having absolutely no idea how everything unfolded really ramped up the suspense. Plus, this movie made me want to learn all about Danish history, which is the greatest form of compliment I can give to a historical film.