If the identities of Jack and von Trier were previously still separable, this hellish crucible forges them together irrevocably. Whatever else one might say about von Trier, this is filmmaking imbued with terrifying clarity regarding its (self-)destructive nature.
This complex character study is centered on Esmail (Ardalan Esmaili), an Iranian in Denmark who faces deportation unless he can settle down with a Danish partner . . . Through his struggles, the film explores the performative nature of assimilation and reminds us of the steep costs of trying to forge a new life and identity in a foreign land.
The Favourite works in an idiosyncratic register that distills his austere and sometimes brutal gaze to darkly comic effect. Here, he reimagines the period piece as an acerbic battleground of wits, where no behavior, interaction, or pastime is too eccentric or primal.
The crowning achievement of this drama is the game and invigorating performance of Regina Williams, from her flinty exasperation to her no-guff candor to her sly, self-protective sarcasm. Hers is a performance suffused with compassion yet devoid of cheap and easy sentiment.