Jesper W. Nielsen’s ‘The Exception’ (2019): An Uneven But Well Acted Thriller – Movie Review

When it comes to the subject of war crimes like genocide, there poses a question: why do some people commit atrocities and not others? This question is explored within the insular relationship between four women in Jesper W. Nielsen’s (Through A Glass, Darkly 2008) film, The Exception.


Iben, Malene, Anne-Lise and Camilla are four women working together in a daily routine marked by power struggles, whispers and alliances. When Iben and Malene each receive death threats, they start to suspect a Serbian war criminal, whom they have been writing articles about. However, when a case of bullying in the office escalates, they slowly begin to wonder if the evil comes from themselves.
The Exception takes place at a Copenhagen library that researches and documents genocide. It involves four women: researchers Iben (Danica Curcic: The Mist TV series), Malene (Amanda Collin: A Horrible Woman), librarian Anne-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen: Westworld TV series), and secretary Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen: The Legacy). When Iben and Malene receive death threats, they initially worry that it may be from a Serbian war criminal. But then they start to wonder…
I’ll be honest; I don’t miss office politics, and this film makes me remember why. Group bullying is just one of those activities that I’ve noticed that most people (with very few exceptions) seem to have no problem joining in. In that respect, The Exception nails it. I actually winced at a few scenes because they felt so awful. That’s a credit to the actresses in the film, who were all fantastic. Danic Curcic gets top marks from me as the tough yet fragile Iben, who desperately tries to deal with regular life and her PTSD from her field work in Kenya. The other standout was Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Anne-Lise, whose sanity (or guilt) I was never quite sure of. It was a fine balancing act.
The biggest problem I have with this film is that the main question, “Why does someone commit atrocities?,” never really seems to gel with the story of the interplay between the four women. This was just a little bit too far of a leap for me to take, regardless how great the acting was, which is a shame. If the viewer chooses instead to focus on the fascinating interactions between the women, it’s a whole lot more fun.
This is still an entertaining watch if you are able to suspend some disbelief. Gorehounds be warned, this is almost pure thriller with very little blood spilled. The Exception is available on Digital and DVD in the UK.

About Christine Burnham

When not writing, Christine Burnham is watching TV, Horror films, reading, cooking, and spending time with her menagerie of animals.

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