Adapting a Dutch bestseller inspired by a shocking real-life crime, Menno Meyjes (screenwriter of The Color Purple and Lionheart) directs this excoriating assessment of Europe’s contemporary social ills.
Contemporary World Cinema
Despite having been asked to retire from the teaching profession because of his unpredictable mood swings and unpalatable opinions on modern society, the caustic Paul (Jacob Derwig) is almost deliriously happy. He's in love with his wife, Claire, and proud of his teenage son, Michel. But things may be changing. Michel is hardly perfect — a call from Paul's noxious politician brother Serge alerts him to the fact that he's not the only one who suspects Michel has committed an unthinkable crime.
Veteran filmmaker Menno Meyjes' The Dinner is an excoriating look at contemporary European society. Based on the bestselling Dutch novel by Herman Koch (itself inspired by a real-life murder case), it unflinchingly examines the contexts in which crimes occur. Initially, we see Paul as one of the primary reasons for Michel's behaviour. Undeniably intolerant of anyone but his immediate family, Paul has hardly set a good example for his son. And there's plenty of hypocrisy in this couple's circles. Serge and his wife, Babette, are emblems of the New Left in The Netherlands. After a trip to Africa, they adopt an orphaned boy, whom they treat as a politically useful accessory. (They've never once objected to the fact that their son and Michel ruthlessly mock the poor kid.) Then there's the preternaturally patient Claire, who may have her own reasons for putting up with Paul's peccadilloes.
Propelled by Paul's deranged, sometimes
perversely funny tirades in a fine performance
by Derwig, The Dinner is a terrifying
look at the paleolithic attitudes still prevalent
in modern-day Europe, where even the
ugliest surfaces may be less scary and less
corrosive than what's hidden beneath them.