There's a distinct sadness to Susanne Bier's Serena, a sense of a limited filmmaker genuinely stretching herself, using a high-profile opportunity to create a multi-layered commentary on gender and historical politics, and the origins of contemporary society. Epic, classic narratives such as Serena's invite this kind of attention, that insatiable desire of too many artists to tackle such dense, grand tales - Bier's intentions are steadfast, her technique lacking. This is a sombre, sedate depiction of a high-strung series of incidents, grounded in drab, earthy production design that Bier ignores, thus nullifying the potential impact of all aspects of the film. Serena is as clear as the mountain air, as foggy as the smoke blown from the steam train, an exemplary account of the bland effects of untapped melodrama. And thus the film trundles onward, one thing leading predictably to another, the plot gradually revealing that it's headed in all the same directions you once imagined it might but hoped it'd avoid. The film's saving grace is also its chief flaw, though: its intermittent and utterly startling daffiness. This is the very last film you'd expect to slide into silliness, yet it does so with a determination that is as detrimental to the film's quality as it is thoroughly hilarious. Bier displays a knack for farcical comedy that we've previously seen from her in Love Is All You Need, yet with not even the suggestion of the self-awareness she worked in alongside it. Serena is otherwise wholly forgettable; these moments of madness may cement its position in film history. All things considered, that must be for the right reasons.