(2002)4Elbert VenturaThe lamely titled Open Hearts may have a plot to match its soapy moniker, but Susanne Bier's melodrama turns out to be more affecting than expected. Made under the guidelines of the Dogme 95 movement -- which calls for the use of only natural light and sound, handheld digital cameras, and location filming, among other precepts -- Bier's film is a gently humanist drama that fulfills the manifesto's promise of emotional immediacy. The movie revolves around the tangled connections between two couples: young lovers Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Cecilie (Sonja Richter), and middle-aged husband and wife Niels (Mads Mikkelsen) and Marie (Paprika Steen). After Marie runs Joachim over and leaves him paralyzed, Niels, a doctor at the hospital, tends to the shaken Cecilie at the urging of his guilt-racked wife. Thus the seeds of an affair are planted. For all the opportunities for histrionics, Bier keeps the bathos to a merciful minimum. Dogme 95 improvisation has often proved more distracting than truthful, but Bier manages to sidestep the manifesto's tendency for self-indulgence. More nimble than its chamber piece setup might suggest, Open Hearts ultimately distinguishes itself with its fondness for its characters -- hardly a trademark of Dogme films. Bier may not have much new to say about marriage and infidelity, but her empathy gives this downscale drama a warm glow.