A Fortunate Man (Lykke-Per) Netflix ~ A Review

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Photo montage of scenes from A Fortunate Man. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film.


A FORTUNATE MAN aka Lykke-Per translated “Happy Per” (2018) is a Danish film on Netflix internationally. 2 hr 42 min. In Danish with subtitles (dubbing also available). 12 Cert U.K. 


“A gifted engineer flees his austere roots to pursue wealth and success among Copenhagen’s elite, but the pride propelling him threatens to be his ruin.” Fraghera IMDb 


Esben Smed as Lykke-Per

Katrine Greis-Rosenthal as Jakobe Salomon

Benjamin Kitter as Ivan Salomon

Julie Christiansen as Nanny Solomon

Tommy Kenter as Salomon

Tammi Øst as Lea Salomon

Rasmus Bjerg as Eybert

Ole Lemmeke as Delft 

Sara Viktoria Bjerregaard as Inger 

Sophie-Marie Jeppesen as Lisbeth

Claus Flygare as Priest 

The English-language theatrical poster for A Fortunate Man


Director: Bille August 

Writers: Bille August & Anders Frithiof August 

Cinematographer: Dirk Brüel

Editors: Anne Østerud & Janus Billeskov Jansen 

Costume: Manon Rasmussen 

Music: Lorenz Dangel 

Sound: Niels Arild & Kim Dalum 

Make-Up: Dennis Knudsen & Tina Helmark 

Production Design: Jette Lehmann 

Visual Effects: Martin Madsen & Thomas Øhlenschlæger 

The Danish theatrical poster for A Fortunate Man (Lykke-Per)


This film is based on the novel Lykke-Per by the Nobel Prize-winning Danish author Henrik Pontoppidan. Lykke-Per is one of the most re-read and talked about Danish fictional works. It is a semi-autobiographical work as Pontoppidan also left a clerical family in Jutland to become an engineer before eventually becoming a writer. 

Esben Smed will be known to some for his roles in Follow the Money and The Kindness of Strangers). 

Bille August is a Cannes Palme D’Or and Robert Award- winning, Emmy and BAFTA nominated Danish director and writer who was married to the Swedish actress Pernilla August and is father to the actress Alba August. 

Esben Smed as Per in A Fortunate Man


A Fortunate Man appealed partly because of it and its director, Bille August, being award-winning and nominated. The cast looked good and the trailer (despite not being available with subtitles… why not Netflix?) was appealing. I enjoy historical dramas a lot, so this seemed to fit the bill. I knew it was going to be a long film so stocked up on “supplies” before starting. 

The main protagonist, “Per”, as he restyles himself is a driven, highly talented individual (“genius”) who flees his harsh family environment in Jutland to become an engineer. 

For Per it is the physical cruelty and lack of demonstrative love, especially from his clergyman father, that he received a child which blights his psyche forever. He is a very angry, incredibly stubborn, aggressive and cynical, ambitious young man. He is fickle in love and finds it almost impossible to make real, deep and meaningful long-lasting relationships with others. He also falls into the same patterns of behaviour as his father. He has something broken inside of him. Some viewers will no doubt struggle with him as the “hero” of this story as at times he is thoroughly unlikeable. 

Esben Smed (right) as Per and Katrine Greis-Rosenthal (left) as Jakobe in A Fortunate Man

What is the relationship between “good luck” and “happiness”? This is the central theme of this movie and it is explored not only through Per’s story but also that of Jakobe. 

Per initially considers happiness to be due to success and achievement with projects and goals in a world he regards as mundane and ordinary. Eventually, Per realizes that happiness can be achieved independently of any luck that leads to success. Per’s withdrawal from the bustling scene of Copenhagen back to Jutland is not a defeat (although it seems it) but a victory over the very circumstances that define success. This does however take Per a VERY long time to realise. For a “fortunate man” he is often isolated and always the outsider, no matter where he is. There is a birthday party scene which epitomises this perfectly, as he sits, observing others almost as if they are from another planet. 

For Jakobe Salomon, Per is the love of her life and ultimately, despite the tragedy of their relationship, it is through knowing and loving him (she never really stops loving him) that leads her towards her own independent, worthwhile life and happiness. 

Katrine Greis Rosenthal (left, rear) as Jakobe Salomon with Julie Christiansen (right, front) as Nanny Solomon in A Fortunate Man

The central performances of Esben Smed as Per is excellent and he never indulges in the overblown and is excellent at subtle micro-expressions but when he has to let rip he most certainly can create real energy onscreen. Katrine Greis-Rosenthal as Jakobe conveys such a range of emotions, I was left stunned by her performance in this film. The whole supporting cast is solid and really add to the overall impact. 

A Fortunate Man also conveys the class and other social structures in late 19th century Denmark and, to a lesser extent, in Austria (here is where we see the ugly face of anti-Semitism). The costuming and sets are stunning and the locations, both rural and urban, really capture the distinctive atmospheres. 

Gosh, this is a very beautiful film to watch, not just because of costumes, sets etc. but because the cinematography is just beautiful! Your ears won’t miss out either as there is a wonderful score that enhances the visuals without swamping them or the story. 

Some will undoubtedly find this film too long and I do think that it could have benefitted from being half an hour shorter but that said I never actually felt it was a drag to watch, especially once I settled into its pace and style. Don’t be afraid to treat it as a miniseries though if that suits you better. 

Esben Smed as Per in a scene from A Fortunate Man

A Fortunate Man pulls at the heartstrings at times and the final section made me cry. It felt like a true story at all times, even though it is a work of fiction. Despite its long run time I can strongly recommend watching it, especially if you enjoy period dramas with universal relevance, important things to say and something to leave you to think about once the final credits roll. 


5 wins and 13 nominations ~ 


Beijing International Film Festival (2019) Tiantian Award, Best Film, Bille August

Bodil Awards (2019) Best Supporting Actress, Katrine Greis-Rosenthal

Danish Film Awards (Robert, 2019) 

Best Production Design, Jette Lehmann; Best Costume Design, Manon Rasmussen; Best Actress, Katrine Greis-Rosenthal

Nominations summary: 

Robert Awards (2019) Best Film; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Original Score; Best Actor, Esben Smed; Best Supporting Actor, Benjamin Kitter; Best Editing; Best Sound; Best Supporting Actress, Julie Christiansen; Best Cinematography; Best Make-Up; Best Visual Effects 

Trailer (unfortunately no trailer with subtitles is available):

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  1. Thanks for the recommendation. Bille August is well-known to me for his work with Ingmar Berman.

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