The last client of the day is always the hardest, something the protagonist of this frightening 2022 movie understands quite well.
It all begins with Dr. Susanne Hartmann, who is back from a long conference trip, presenting her successful book all over Europe.
Indeed, she is an internationally famous psychiatrist, and her time is money, being the highest-paid mental health professional in town.
The next day, she just wants to go home, but one last client is waiting for her for the most challenging night of her life.
At the last moment, her secretary announces the booking of Mark, a guy she has never seen, whose appointment she would like to cancel because she doesn’t like to deal with people without studying their personal background first.
Nevertheless, she agrees to have the first session with him, but she feels a strange sense of unease from the first moment.
The uneasiness becomes concern and then danger when she feels this boy’s anger as he hints at talking about his family.
So the psychiatrist tries to cancel the appointment and kick him out, but she discovers with horror that there is no one left in the building except them and his secretary, dead with her throat cut in the other room.
At that point, she knows for sure to be a hostage of a serial killer, well known to the police and media because he kidnaps young pregnant girls and then removes their tiny babies.
Under the threat of a knife, she has no choice but to deal with the boy like other patients and begin an absurd therapy, hoping that he really seeks help instead, all this is not merely a macabre ritual before killing her anyway.
Fight of the mind
With a fine display of cinematic talent, director Anders Rønnow Klarlund transforms the primary environment of the movie, a simple room, into a gloomy labyrinth from which it seems impossible to escape.
This trap transcends mere physical constraint to sink its claws inside the soul and mind, creating an intricate game of mirrors constantly challenging the spectator’s mind.
With a particularly meticulous touch, Klarlund handles the progressive revelation of the plot, written in collaboration with Jacob Weinreich.
An intellectual duel resembling a chess game emerges, where on one side is a psychiatrist skillfully trained in the art of manipulation and on the other a young man who is ruthlessly effective at covering up his murderous frenzy without leaving a trail for the police.
While the serial killer uncovers his cards, this progression becomes a noose that tightens around the neck of the woman his hostage until a devastating climax with neither hope nor salvation for anyone.
The Last Client is a 2022 movie that draws its strength and life from the ongoing dialogue between these two characters, keeping the pace up with the addition of flashbacks, through which the audience learns about the inextricable bonds uniting them.
Despite being a low-budget production, Klarlund’s directorial cunning compensates for economic limitations by shaping an engaging thriller without room for boredom or distraction.
On the contrary, every single moment is imbued with tension and anticipation for a cinematic experience that does not allow a moment’s respite.
As absurd as it sounds at one point, I remembered dear old Vito and Micheal Corleone, The Godfather‘s leading players, constantly repeating how important it was to never betray or disappoint your family.
Small production, big outcomes
Leaving aside a few secondary characters, the centerpiece of the plot is wholly around the figure of Dr. Susanne and young Mark, whose dynamic creates a web of questions that both attracts and suspends in mystery.
Who is Mark, and what is the reason why he chose Susanne among all the other doctors?
Without revealing these crucial details, we should applaud the brilliant performance of these two actors, who create a no-holds-barred psychological challenge for an hour and a half of great cinema that is fascinating, frightening, and emotionally engaging.
Signe Egholm Olsen stands out as a mature protagonist with unaltered beauty, as an honest woman in a concrete situation, rather than the classic portrayal of a Hollywood star with often over-the-top, not very believable interpretation.
We, as the audience, suspended between her every word and silence, come to believe her both as a psychiatrist and a terrified mother.
Facing this challenge, Anton Hjejle shows a matching talent to his colleague, demonstrating a potential that promises a bright future in the film world.
Indeed, he succeeds in arousing fear without resorting to an explosive anger attitude, and his character, a serial killer tormented by his condition, longs above all else to erase his own existence.
The most striking trait of Hjejle’s character is the absence of blatant cruelty. However, he is aware of his own insanity, examining clearly every aspect of his life and planning a highly complex agenda in every move that leads to a bizarre but, again, perfectly believable ending.
I was very surprised by this 2022 movie, about which I found the premise intriguing, and even more surprised to read other opinions like mine that immensely enjoyed The Last Client.