The fifth and final 2006 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film finally arrives in American theaters, and it's a serious case of too little, too late. Susanne Bier's After the Wedding, from Denmark, is fairly middlebrow and melodramatic, not as bloody awful as Rachid Bouchareb's Days of Glory or Deepa Mehta's Water, but equally unmemorable. It's a testament to how badly the Academy needs to revamp this category: instead of taking a single submission from each of a list of countries, why not simply nominate the best foreign language films that played in American theaters during a calendar year? That way we could have enjoyed such nominees as Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times, Claude Chabrol's The Bridesmaid, Park Chan-wook's Lady Vengeance, Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Patrice Chéreau's Gabrielle, or perhaps even Jean-Pierre Melville's resurrected 1969 film Army of Shadows.
Fortunately, there's another reason for After the Wedding to exist, and that's the unique and charismatic star Mads Mikkelsen, with his impossibly pointy cheekbones, beady eyes and reptilian lips that look as if they're about to slide right off his face. In this country, he's best known as James Bond's nemesis in Casino Royale, or as Clive Owen's scrungy sidekick in King Arthur (2004), basically a sadistic badass. But in his native Denmark, he's capable of all kinds of things, from black comedies (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, The Green Butchers) to weepy melodrama (Open Hearts). After the Wedding definitely falls into the latter category (otherwise, it wouldn't have been an Oscar nominee).