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Movie Review: Twee Grade van Moord
Written by Spling   
Monday, 18 July 2016 15:56

Twee Grade van Moord (Two Degrees of Murder) is an Afrikaans drama about love and loss. We follow Aleksa Cloete, a renowned psychologist and author of "Love Doesn't Hurt", whose life is turned upside down when her loving husband, Ben, is admitted to hospital for examination. Having agreed to participate in a documentary about her breakthrough therapy, one of her patients arrives on her doorstep looking for help after her boyfriend dies.

This ambitious drama certainly looks and sounds the part, harnessing the talents of a fine cast and setting them against a technically competent feature film. The subject matter has the same potential as The Sea Inside and you get the impression that the filmmakers were inspired by dysfunctional suburban dramas like American Beauty. However, Twee Grade van Moord suffers from seemingly invisible flaws: a lack of story focus, tonal shifts, unlikeable characters and too much padding.

Sandra Prinsloo and Marius Weyers are two veterans of Afrikaans cinema, whose wealth of experience makes their mere presence a boost to any film project. In Twee Grade van Moord, they essentially take on the role of co-leads, playing a happily married couple tasked with a critical decision. At least, this is probably what the film should have been about, leaning on their acting prowess and funneling into an Away from Her style drama about the bounds of love when it comes to dealing with a degenerative disease.

While they give their characters impetus and there's a sense of history, it's not an entirely comfortable fit. The supporting cast includes: Shaleen Surtie-Richards as nanny Fy, who could have her own spin-off film, Hilda Cronje who dives in head first as a free-spirited yet fragile soul and Roelof Storm in a headstrong performance.

Twee Grade van Moord Movie

"Love doesn't hurt... pah."

Unfortunately, for its own sake, Twee Grade van Moord is a much more complicated affair. It functions more like a character-driven ensemble drama, trying to draw in dysfunctional strands from American Beauty. As such, we discover subplots involving a dejected son and his lover, a nosy family housekeeper, a distraught patient in an abusive relationship and an invasive documentary film crew. While these elements serve to layer the storytelling and contrast the emotional interplay, they simply distract from the central relationship.

Instead of creating depth, each subplot soaks up time and stretches the canvas, keeping a good pace but not really giving us a chance to care for the characters. While there's some playful intimacy between Aleksa and Ben at first, all of the characters seem self-centred and dedicated to carrying out their own singular objectives. This makes it difficult to empathise for any of them and further distances us from their pain. The documentary crew seems like an add-on, or a clever sub-narrative device to patch up the converging stories, and boils down to the role of a news reporter.

Twee Grade van Moord also suffers from an inconsistent tone. It starts in a bubbly way as if it were ramping up to become a provocative comedy about love in later life with a shower scene and some nudity. Then as if you were channel-hopping, it shifts into a sombre disease drama, then into a crime thriller only to round-off as a court room drama. These tonal fluctuations keep you guessing, but struggle to balance a film already dealing with soap opera tendencies that would have been better served as a dark comedy.

It's a pity that the quality of the parts don't add up to something more considerable. While the film-makers may have approached this curious drama with the noblest of intentions, Twee Grade van Moord remains elusive, off-balance and scattershot.

The bottom line: Riddled

Last Updated on Monday, 18 July 2016 16:15