Movie Review: Lilja 4-ever (2002)

Hello there, friends. This is it. The final post.

Got ya there, didn’t I? But in all seriousness, this is the last Summer of the Swedes post I’m doing. I know I didn’t do many posts for this series of mine, but I didn’t intend for it to be an intense deep dive into my country’s filmography, just a bit of motivation to watch a few more films from it than usual. So my mad ramblings will go back to the usual versatility after this. So yeah. Here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Lilja 4-ever”.

16-year old Lilja (Oksana Akinsjina) doesn’t have a great life. Often neglected by her parents, scraping by in life, she finds herself dreaming of a better life somewhere far away from her home in Russia. This movie has a story that seldom lets up when it comes to its drama, it’s a profoundly depressing experience that absolutely haunted my soul for several hours after watching it. Even in some of the light moments where there’s joy on Lilja’s face, there is this underlying sadness to the situation, you know that even though there is this fleeting moment of joy, that is exactly what it is… fleeting. It’s a really well told story that I found utterly compelling, giving us a nuanced look at this young girl’s life… but man, it’s also incredibly sad.

The characters in this don’t really feel like characters, they feel grounded and very real. Oksana Akinsjina plays Lilja, the titular girl. She’s a very complex individual, showing off a ton of realistic nuance that is seldom seen in film And Akinsjina is fantastic in the role. Then we have Artiom Bogutjarskij as Volodya, a young boy who is one of Lilja’s only true friends. Devoted, a little sassy, and clearly crushing on her, he’s an interesting foil for the narrative that helps ground Lilja a bit more, giving her a bit of an anchor when things escalate around her. And Bogutjarskij is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Elina Benenson, Pavel Ponomarjov, Lilija Sjinkarjova, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nathan Larson, and it was good. It’s not very showy, going for a more low-key subtle string-based thing to create drama and emotion, which I think works pretty well. There were also some licensed music for a few scenes. And while I wouldn’t listen to those tracks in my own time, I think they work well enough in their respective scenes, fitting the narrative being told in those moments.

“Lilja 4-ever” was written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, who I think did a fantastic job. His direction has a very fly on the wall kinda of approach, never feeling flashy (bar one weird zoom early on in the film), therefore immersing me even more in the drama. Combine this with the dirty neighborhood we spend so much time in, and you get a world that feels very lived in. It all comes together into one hell of an engrossing and real-feeling experience.

This film has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“Lilja 4-ever” is a really depressing drama that I highly recommend. It has a great story, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lilja 4-ever” is a 9,57/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lilja 4-ever” is now completed.

I highly recommend bringing a pet or a loved one. Not because it’s a good date movie, but because you might need someone to hug when your heart gets crushed.

Movie Review: The Wedding Photographer (2009)

I enjoy a bit of photography. I may not own an actual camera (though I’d really like to), but if I see potential in a spot or situation then I whip out my phone and snap a pic. Even during the Summer, this Swede takes some pictures. Wow, that was a clumsy tie-in to this series of mine… fuck it, it works.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Wedding Photographer” (Original title: Bröllopsfotografen).

After the place he works at shuts down, Robin (Björn A. Ling) decides to take this new opportunity to move to Stockholm and pursue his dream of becoming a wedding photographer. And as he starts acquiring work and nestling himself in with some of the finer folks of the city, his life starts changing quite a bit. What at the start just seems like a romantic comedy with a poor goofball in a rich man’s world spin soon turns into more of a satire of class divide and how people might change if they try to look good for the allegedly “fine” people out there. And I found myself very entertained by the narrative. Sure, it’s not the most original premise, I could probably even think of a few films with similar setups, but as per usual it’s the execution that matters. And the execution of the story here is fun and entertaining, with a few decent nuances on occasion. The pacing does drag a little in a few parts, but for the most part I found myself just having a good time with the story here.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, and overall just entertaining. Björn A. Lind (credited here as Björn Starrin) plays Robin, a likable and somewhat ambitious young man hailing from the boonies in the northwest of Sweden. He has a bit of an interesting arc here that I found surprisingly engaging. And Lind is really good in the role. Next we have Kjell Bergqvist as Jonny Björk, a former comedian trying to make it as a more serious actor. He’s the one helping Robin get his foot in the door, and their bond is one of the best parts of the movie. And Bergqvist is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Tuva Novotny, Johannes Brost, Lotta Tejle, Johan Östling, Anastasios Soulis, and many more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the film was composed by Jimmy Lagnefors, and it was okay. A bit charming, a bit dramatic, a bit eclectic. It works for the most part within the various scenes, even if it feels a little weird or eclectic at times.

“The Wedding Photographer” was written, edited, and directed by Ulf Malmros, and I think he did a really good job with it. He has a good way of keeping energy up in scenes without making anything feel rushed, creating a vibe that made me really feel part of the experience. I also have to mention the cinematography by Mats Olofsson, because it’s great. A lot of fun long takes, some clever camera movements, it just adds another layer of quality to the storytelling and overall enjoyment.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% audience score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

While I think some of the humor will get lost in translation, I highly enjoyed “The Wedding Photographer”. It has a fun plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Wedding Photographer” is an 8,44/10. So I’d argue that it can be worth buying.

My review of “The Wedding Photographer” is now completed.

Say cheese.

Movie Review: False Trail (2011)

The Summer of the Swedes continues, this time with the sequel of a film we covered a few weeks back. So that’s fun.

Ladies and gents… “False Trail” (Original title: Jägarna 2).

Stockholm policeman Erik Bäckström (Rolf Lassgård) reluctantly gets called in to help out with a murder investigation in his old hometown in Norrbotten. However, as Erik looks into the case he soon finds that it isn’t as simple as first assumed, all while trying to connect with his estranged nephew (Kim Tjernström). So at first glance it seems like a retread of the first movie. And with it being a 15-years later sequel, you’d be forgiven for not having high expectations. But I’ll be damned, the story here is actually not bad. In fact, I’d say it’s good. It uses a similar blend of police thriller and family drama to the first movie, without ever feeling like a complete retread of it all. It feels like a proper sequel that builds upon the world set up in the first one while also working as its own film. Yes, it ties into the first one a lot, but it recaps enough within its own runtime that would help anyone feel mostly welcome. But yeah, the story here is compelling and dramatic and a little suspenseful too. That said, the pacing does drag a little bit towards the middle and maybe also a little towards the second half, which does drag the experience down a little. But I can still happily say that the narrative here still works quite well.

Much like the story, the characters surprise by having an unexpected amount of depth, making them quite compelling to follow. Rolf Lassgård of course returns as Erik, the big, burly, but sensitive cop returning to his home. We have the layers of the first movie’s setup, while also adding some of the trauma from the end of that one to make for an even more nuanced individual. And Lassgård is fantastic in the role. Next we have Peter Stormare as Torsten, a fellow policeman who lives in the area Erik comes back to. He’s an interesting individual in that you quickly learn that he is one complex son of a bitch. There’s a lot of surprising nuances to him that makes him not only a good character on his own, but also a great foil for Lassgård’s Erik. And Stormare is fantastic in the role. And the supporting cast is great too, with people like Kim Tjernström, Annika Nordin, Lo Kauppi, Eero Milonoff, and more all giving damn good performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Johan Söderqvist, and I must say that I might prefer it a bit over the first film’s score. Not that the one in the 1996 film was bad, but the music here relies a little less on the melodramatic sounds of the first one, giving us a score that manages to resonate a bit more, create a much more interesting soundscape.

“False Trail” was directed by Kjell Sundvall, the man behind the 1996 original. And yeah, the dude has stepped up his craft quite a bit. His directing is more intense, being able to create a lot of tension in a scene, all without sacrificing the emotional intimacy that’s so integral to the experience. It helps make for some really investing scenes.

This film has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

Pacing issues aside, “False Trail” is a the rare unnecessary sequel that builds upon the first film and makes for another engaging experience. It has a good story, good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “False Trail” is an 8.77/10. So while hampered by those pacing issues, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “False Trail” is now completed.

Crazy bastards did it.

Movie Review: The Guardian Angel (1990)

Oh hi. Ready for another Summer of the Swedes entry? Cool, let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Guardians Angel” (Original title: Skyddsängeln).

Some fictional European country, the 1910s. A revolution rages on, and one of the country’s ministers (Etienne Glaser) has decided to have a nice, relaxing summer with his family in the countryside. He has also brought his new bodyguard (Philip Zandén). And we follow these people as they go through ups and downs throughout the summer. This film tries to say things about stuff, but it never succeeded in putting it in my head. I don’t mind a movie trying to say something about humanity or politics or whatever the fuck, but you got to have a clever way of saying it that speaks to people. This right here is just fucking pretentious and boring, seldom doing anything remotely engaging. And even in those rare moments where something that could be called mildly interesting happens, the presentation (which we’ll get deeper into later) pushes it into nonsensical pretentiousness again. And while pretentiousness can be acceptable (see Ingmar Bergman), you’re gonna need something interesting to back it up… which this tale doesn’t.

The characters try to be dramatic and engaging and interesting, but guess what… nah. They all clash, as if they’re in different movies. Take Etienne Glaser for example. He very much has the vibe of an uptight asshole in a 50s drama. But then you have Björn Kjellman who feels like he should be in a 90s rom-com. And then there’s Philip Zandén whose performance feels like what Matthew Macfadyen would end up as if he wasn’t allowed to be expressive. The actors are trying, and generally I can’t actively say anything about their performances (except for Björn Kjellman, whose performance just feels weirdly anachronistic).

What’s interesting about the music in this movie is that there isn’t much of it. And the little we get is music licensed for the film. It doesn’t have a typical score. But how do these few licensed tracks work throughout? Eh. The tracks themselves aren’t bad, but the way they’ve been implemented just feels slightly off.

Based on a novel by Ricarda Huch, “The Guardian Angel” was directed by Suzanna Osten. And I have mixed feelings about the execution of her directing. It’s clear that she knows what she wants in her direction, the confidence is very evident in what we see. However, some of the choices made don’t really work for me. There are some shots that are a bit… off. But even more baffling is the editing, which is all over the fucking place, often just leaving me stunned as to why you would make a lot of those cuts, sometimes causing a weird sense of nausea even.

On imdb.com this movie has a score of 6.6/10. That’s all I got… the movie barely fucking exists on my usual sites.

“The Guardian Angel” is a bit too slow and pretentious for me, just ending up being a drab and less than engaging experience. Its plot is slow and nonsensical, its characters not that engaging despite (mostly) good acting, weirdly chosen music, the direction okay, and the editing being fucking baffling. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Guardians Angel” is a 3,11/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “The Guardian Angel” is now completed.

Zzzzz…

Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)

These kinds of movies are always kind of exciting. You know the ones, the movies that are quite polarizing. A lot of people love them, a lot of people don’t. Those are always the most exciting to watch/talk about, because of this discourse. So let’s chat about this polarizing picture.

Mina damer och herrar… “Midsommar”.

After suffering a terrible tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels with her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a remote part of Sweden to take part in a festival. But what seems like a nice, relaxing way of getting away from life and gathering your thoughts, soon turns into something a bit more strange. So now we have our semi-cult horror-drama-thriller story. And here where I think the divide will occur for most people. It’s a slow burning affair, more about exploring certain themes and ideas rather than just up and spooking you. And if you don’t want to sit through that for nearly two and a half hours, then maybe avoid this. As for me, I found this a weirdly enrapturing experience. It’s not something I’ll probably ever watch again, and it’s probably not something I’ll call one of my favorite movies… but it’s a story experience unlike any other I’ve witnessed, and I was drawn in from start to finish.

The characters in this are interesting in the sense that not all of them get too much depth, but I wouldn’t want them to not be included. First up we have Florence Pugh as Dani, the young woman at the center of the story. She has gone through some shit, which has really fucked with her mental state, which we see manifest throughout the movie, which adds a bit to making her a very compelling character. And Pugh is absolutely fantastic in the role (give her an Oscar, you cowards). Jack Reynor plays Christian, Dani’s boyfriend who I have conflicted feelings about, which I think was the movie’s intent, and I found him interesting to have along. And Reynor is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Henrik Norlén, Will Poulter, Isabelle Grill, Liv Mjönes, Hampus Hallberg, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Bobby Krlic, and I’d say it’s good. It’s not something I’d find myself listening to in my free time, but I can’t deny that it’s well composed and fits quite well within the various scenes where you can hear it. It’s an often droning score, almost dreamlike which adds to the eeriness of the movie.

“Midsommar” was written and directed by Ari Aster, who I think did a damn good job with it. His control of scene flow is immaculate, and when combined with the pitch perfect editing and Pawel Pogorzelski’s stunning cinematography, and you got one of the most impressively crafted films of the year. It manages to be otherworldly while still clearly being on our own planet earth.

This movie has gotten mixed reception (but mostly positive from critics). On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 83% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

“Midsommar” isn’t for everyone… but I certainly thought it was engaging. It has a really good plot, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic writing/directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midsommar” is a 9,58/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midsommar” is now completed.

They present the midsummer celebration in the movie as some huge, elaborate event. But the actual celebration here in Sweden is just people getting drunk, eating bland food, and maybe stumbling around a wreath pole.

12 Songs of Christmas (Part 8)

Jesus fucking Christ, we are already at part 8 of this little thing here. Time sure goes goes fast. So I guess it’s time to just get into it.

For this part of “12 Songs of Christmas” I decided to go with something that worldwide isn’t something you would call “mainstream”, but here in Sweden it is very common and popular. It is “Vår julskinka har rymt” by comedy duo Werner & Werner. The title of the song roughly translates to “Our christmas ham have escaped”. As you can gather from the title, it’s about a pig/ham that escaped our “heroes”. And as long as you understand Swedish, the song is pretty hilarious. For you other people in the world… maybe you can at least appreciate the overall well done music.
Enjoy!