Keld, as romantic as his name suggests, is a plumber. Hot nights and days for him are spent torquing various pipes and hose with a lock nut wrench and a large chip on his shoulder. He’s burned out but we aren’t sure on what. Too many Danish cookies and Swedish meatballs? It’s possible. He wouldn’t tell us anyway because he says a grand total of twenty words in the entire film. But remember – who needs words when you have food?! When his food runs out because his wife left him and he’s sold all his furniture and is tired of gnawing on the carpet, he has neither word nor food and his extreme social reticence must be tested by doing the one thing he hates in the entire world….trying something new.
Keld takes gathers his manhood together and takes a giant step across the street to the Chinese takeout place. Since there’s no one at home except his chewed up carpet, he decides to dine in and plunges himself into the depths of confusion that is the Chinese menu. Keld doesn’t like surprises or change so he goes down the menu and one by one, eating mushu pork one day, double fried snail entrails the next and a grilled cheese sandwich the day after. A metaphor for HIS LIFE! Do you get that Keld’s life is a sad lonely existence of existingness??? The Chinese restaurateur does and starts sneakily pushing the arranged marriage of his sister so that she may get her visa onto Keld in exchange for a couple of grand. Keld desperately needs this money to pay off his now ex-wife in their divorce settlement, an ex-wife who is slowly coming around to appreciating the new (exciting) Chinese food eating Keld.
Sardonically irreverent dra-medy is clearly the context for this film and one that succeeds where Terribly Happy, Henrik Ruben Genz ‘s later directorial effort was possibly muddled. Different motifs thrown about for affect like so many decorative pillows you aren’t allowed to touch. Uncomfortable self-awareness of your slightly bigoted inner beliefs, realization that foreigners aren’t too terribly terrible, beginning of love of said foreigners and in particular a delicate beautiful foreigner with wondrous skills in kitchen, natch. It’s GREEN CARD! Except with spicy ginger rolls.
Genz stays away from overly artsy chutzpah and instead focuses on the strain that is the internal life of our hero Geld. He’s the opposite of traditional leading man characters, the Phillip Seymour Hoffman of Denmark. He struggles to paste together one word on top of the other, and is constantly fixing plumbing problems of others. For free. Yet the audience throughout is rooting for him to break out of his proverbial shell and start to give what for to various people with overextending agendas. Especially when he starts to grow little green buds of feelings for this young girl he marries so that she can stay in the country. So what that she can’t speak the same language as he. He never talks anyway. He’s more than content to sit quietly as she prepares immaculately concepted dishes of traditional Chinese food, serves it to him and then clean his house. Too good to be true, men? It is. But a great ride anyway to be sure.