Danish series When the Dust Settles starts with average people going about their daily lives. A politician gives a speech, a child wants to come home early from a sleepover. In a retirement home an old man complains, a homeless woman leaves a friend’s place not knowing where she’s going to spend the night. Some lives are connected, others remain strangers – until they’re united by an act of terrorism.
It’s a series about the effects of violence, the way it can upend lives and force people to face the truth about themselves. Its focus on a cast of relatively ordinary characters fills every moment with a growing tension. While there are flash-forwards throughout this 10-part series, it’s not until around the midway point that the terrorist attack finally happens. Is this argument, this phone call, this moment the last time they’ll see each other? Will what’s going to happen bring them together, or tear them apart?
Despite the building tension, the series wouldn’t work if the characters weren’t engaging in their own right. Their stories play off each other where one character’s problem is another’s dream situation, one person’s struggle another’s opportunity. It all comes together as a snapshot of a society in action – and then it all comes crumbling down.
Eight-year-old Marie (Viola Martinsen) is an anxious child, despite the best efforts of her mother Louise (Filippa Suenson). Louise is juggling motherhood with studying and working in a restaurant, but there’s a lot on her plate and money is always tight. Marie’s ninth birthday was going to be spent at an amusement park; instead, a last-minute chance for Louise to work an extra shift means Marie is celebrating in the office of the restaurant’s new owner, Nikolaj (Peter Christoffersen). His restaurant is his life, but it’s a life he’s put at risk: with tensions on the rise with Denmark’s Muslim community, renaming the restaurant “Hog” and focusing the menu on pork may be seen by some as a provocation.
For Justice Minister Elisabeth (Karen-Lise Mynster), it’s a test of her principles. Her career has been built on showing compassion and tolerance to criminals and refugees; now, at 68, she wants to pass one last piece of legislation allowing migrants to integrate into the community before she finally retires with her wife Stina (Lotte Anderson). But when the terrorist attack happens, it strikes closer to her than she could have imagined, and her once tolerant worldview turns to hate.
Swedish pop star Lisa (Malin Crépin) is about to start a new life. Successful, famous and in a long-term open relationship with her manager, she’s going to shake it all up with a new man, Phillip (Adam Brix). A divorced father from Denmark, he’s become her everything in a matter of weeks. When the attack comes, the fault lines in their very new relationship become clear, and the assumptions they’ve made about each other and what they have together are put to a test that not many connections could survive.
Holger (Henning Jensen) is an old man in a nursing home who just wants to die. His family have abandoned him – or been pushed away – and all he has going for him is the secret stash of suicide pills he adds to every day. Ginger (Katinka Lærke Petersen) is in her twenties and homeless, moving between friends’ couches and park benches. Despite an increasingly tough situation, she still has her pride and the hope of reconnecting with her sister, who’s taking care of her two-year-old son Billy. The attack will push these two very different people together in a way they couldn’t predict.
In the case of middle-aged plumber Morten (Jacob Lohmann), the attack will shatter his family’s routine, but maybe that’s for the best. With a life dominated by the erratic behaviour of their addict son Albert (Elias Budde Christensen), tensions are on the rise despite Morten’s easygoing nature and his wife’s overly tolerant approach. Telling his son to go after his old job seems like a bonding moment that could heal their rift – until the restaurant that employed him comes under attack.
But it’s Jamal (Arian Kashef) who finds himself in the harshest spotlight. A young member of Copenhagen’s Muslim community who just wants to be a hairdresser, he and the rest of his family are under the thumb of his bullying, domineering older brother. His options are limited, his escape routes cut off, and the only person who seems to take a real interest in him turns out to be the local crime boss. Agreeing to deliver a suspect package to shady characters is dangerous work at the best of times; Jamal might be getting mixed up in something that could forever change his life – or bring it to an end.
When the Dust Settles will stream at SBS On Demand from Thursday 19 November.
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