Walk With Me / De Standhaftige

What is that worst thing that could happen when you are in war and from one second to another, a mine blows up? The worst thing that happened to Thomas (played by Mikkel Følsgaard) is that he didn’t die. From that day on, his future career as a stationed soldier blew away together with his legs. The film by Lisa Ohlin deals with the biggest war most soldiers struggle with. Not the war in Afghanistan, but the ongoing with oneself when returning.

After the mine explosion in Afghanistan, Thomas wakes up in a Danish hospital to a real nightmare – a body without legs. The only hope Thomas has left is the possibility of him being retrained and able to walk again. As quick as possible so he can be sent back to Afghanistan. But despite Thomas being physically strong, the doctors, his family, girlfriend, friends and the military do not support this dream. One day he meets the ballet dancer Sofie (Cecilie Lassen). Sofie is regularly visiting her beloved auntie Ruth who suffers from cancer. Sofie’s career is blooming and her ambitions for a career in New York seems to be right around the corner. With her stubbornness and hard dedication, she decides to help retrain Thomas at the premises of the Royal Ballet School of Copenhagen. The two are complete opposites, yet both are strong-willed and know how to provoke each other. They both go on a separate journey and together they need each other’s supports more than ever.

Walk With Me is one out of many films that deals with the consequences of war in Afghanistan. The film manages to stand out differently from the others by exclusively focusing on the rehabilitation of a returned soldier. Whether you are old or very young, suffering from injuries or similar, it is very common to feel that the body is not always following the mind. Experiencing the struggle first-hand, together with the character of Thomas feels equally as painful on the audience as what you can imagine it does for Thomas. Confidently directed by Ohlin, she manages to lock up the audience, together with the characters in very small and often claustrophobic rooms.

Cecilie Lassen’s debut as Sofie is exquisite and what a relief to see a bright new fresh face in Danish film. Being a former ballet dancer herself she does not only portray the ballet moves with an authenticity, she also manages to contribute with full body language. Lassen and Følsgaard complement each other visually through express-full acting that gives the film a poetic touch. It is fascinating to follow their journey of the two to see how one character’s life goal is almost completed when the other might not be able to complete his.

The language of the film is very rough, insensitive and harsh from Thomas’ perspective. The only one who responds with the same language towards him and spares him no pity is Sofie. Therefore, the only person Thomas can communicate truthfully with is Sofie. The language and tone add a pleasant extra layer to the film, and it supports the character’s development.

All the people who knew Thomas before Afghanistan refuse to deal with the real problem of his disabilities and expect everything to return to normal. This is why they quickly disappear throughout the film they become insignificant to his goals. Ignoring real issues sets a tone for a potential debate in which we could discuss on how to communicate with people who have been stationed.   

The film is remarkable, with a reflective and poetic narrative. It is a drama that illustrates love as it is. Unexplainable, provocative, painful, chaotic yet completely indispensable in order to survive. The script is minimalistic and gifted and doesn’t rely on lines and dialogues, but on the true chemistry between characters and naturalistic pauses. This achievement has been created by the great directing of Ohlin as well as admirable acting performances by Lassen and Følsgaard. The cast is small, yet strong and consists of other great actors such as Morten Holst and Karen-Lise Mynster.

Walk With Me / De Standhaftige
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