Loving Adults – actors Dar Salim and Sonja Richter tell us about playing bitter couple in first Danish Netflix film

An exciting new psychological thriller with a hint of dark humour is coming to Netflix this Friday, August 26. ‘Loving Adults’ is the first Danish feature film to be produced by Netflix, and is in collaboration with the production company behind Netflix original series Snabba Cash and Netflix first Swedish feature film Red Dot.

This twisted tale sees husband and wife Christian and Leonora enjoying life in their stylish Danish home, together with their son who has recently been given the all-clear after a long-term severe illness which put a strain on the couple. The future should be bright for the family, but instead things start to fall apart when Leonora suspects Christian of an affair.

As their relationship hits the rocks, they both seem determined to do whatever it takes to get what they want. How well do two people in a long marriage really know each other?

Nordic fans like us will be excited to hear it stars award-nominated Dar Salim as Christian (Black Crab, Borgen, Game of Thrones) and Sonja Richter (Open Hearts, The Bridge, Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes) as Leonora, and we spoke to them about the film ahead of its release.

These are complex characters to play, and we start by asking Sonja what it was like playing a woman who can switch between playing the vulnerable victim, a strong career woman who would do anything for her family, and manipulative psychopath:

[Sonja] “We can all see ourselves in or know this kind of person – where she will strive to be perfect in every way, have the right husband, the house has to be nice, she will do all the right things as a mum – she will sacrifice her own career to take care of things for her family.

And then when that is threatened and her whole life is falling apart, she will lash out – in an extreme way.”

Leonora, played by Sonja Richter, is not too happy with her husband Christian (Andreas Bastiansen / Netflix)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. We’ve seen this kind of character many times before; a well-presented, charming, ‘perfect’ woman who is pushed to the edge and starts to show fragility, falling victim to her domineering husband who thinks he can have his cake and eat it.

I think all women can relate to the struggles of trying to juggle a marriage, career, being a mum, putting everyone first, and having to put a smile on when inside you’re falling apart. And then when you’re taken for granted and disrespected by those who are meant to love you the most, it can drive you crazy. It can make you go to extreme lengths to save what you worked so hard for.

[Sonja] “So yes, my character is this kind of woman who you think is a victim, but she’s really not. She looks like a victim, you know, a fragile kind of person – everyone will believe her and like her and feel sorry for her.”

And therein lies her power, her ability to manipulate, to surprise, and Sonja plays this very convincingly.

“Love should come with a warning label…Love is dangerous” says the narrator at points during the film. Love can hurt, it can kill, it can destroy; and the film explores the “very thin line between love and hate – and how jealousy and bitterness can bring out the worst in all of us,” as director Barbara Rothenborg puts it, who is fascinated by this idea.

The power struggle that Leonora finds herself in is with her high-achieving but cold husband Christian, played by Dar Salim. Dar tells us what drew him to this story and character:

[Dar] “I loved the script, it was a real page-turner, and I’m always drawn to these characters who have difficult or even impossible journeys. Christian appears to be going through a mid-life crisis, which pushes him to some extreme choices.

Playing a character like this is challenging and rewarding, and I had to find an emotional journey that was credible. I had to be so meticulous in my motivation, and collaborate with the team to insist on things in the script to make it work and be believable.”

Dar Salim playing Christian in Loving Adults (Photo Credit: Philippe Kress / Netflix)
[Dar] “Christian is really just a regular guy, but he has certain qualities that on the one hand make him successful, driven, and strong, but can equally become destructive under certain circumstances and when he is pushed into a corner.”  

The film is certainly a thriller, part love story, part dark comedy; how much were Dar and Sonja influenced by the psychological thriller genre and what are their favourite films along these lines?

[Sonja] “I watched a lot of Gone Girl for this movie. It’s a very interesting genre for sure”

[Dar] “Honestly, I didn’t even read the book [that Loving Adults is based on], even when I know that I’m doing a genre film, I never think of it as a genre, or as something based on a book, or something that relates to something else.

I really try to stay in the character, in the moment, and just take one tiny step at a time, because then the world that’s created around my character will do the rest and the audience will relate.”

[Dar] “However extreme it is, if you’re truthful all the way, then people will relate. And I think it’s dangerous when actors try to play an emotion or a genre or they are too aware of what they’re playing, that’s when it becomes something that somebody is pretending to do.”

Happy families – Leonora and Christian clash (Andreas Bastiansen / Netflix)

The strength of this film certainly lies in its performances by Sonja and Dar, how the audience can relate to the characters, while enjoying the many twist and turns included in the script.

[Dar] “That’s the great thing about the film is that everything is so relatable, like you know the ping of an iPhone at night, even though you haven’t done anything wrong…the suspicion, your own insecurities. Falling in love, maybe being a bit, you know, tired in your own marriage – all these things are very, very relatable to people of all ages. And then… this takes it to another level!”

So would they recommend Loving Adults as a first date movie?

[Sonja] [Laughing] “Yes, definitely. 100%. I mean, you know, that would lay the groundwork for conversations to come, it would bring some issues to the table really quickly.”

[Dar] “It doesn’t matter who your date will be. You’re going to look at her and say, you know what? You’re not that bad.”

So, snuggle up with your date or loved one this weekend and enjoy the twists and turns of ‘Loving Adults’ on Netflix.

Loving Adults is out now on Netflix

Interview by Alex & Claire Minnis

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