Monday, 16 November 2009

Let The Right One In

Sweden done good with this one, making this blogger happy at two good films in two days.

Let The Right One In (I'm not going to attempt the original title) has swept up the world over the last couple of years (it's been a looong international roll-out for the film), with audiences and critics alike praising it as not only one of the best horror films of late, but quite simply one of the best films full stop. And they're not too far off the mark.

I'm not convinced it's one of the greatest films of the decade (would it make my top 100, however? Possibly) but it is damn good. Horror film? Meh. I had a couple of tense moments, but I wouldn't really say I was scared.

I think that is the beauty of the film. Ostensibly, it's a childhood love story. I'd call it a coming of age story, but I don't quite think the children are old enough for that. They don't even really lose their innocence. They're just kids, after all, doing as kids do - exploring their emotions, their limits, their feelings and each other.

The horror aspect comes from the fact that one of the 'kids' is a vampire - or, as she says when directly asked the question, she lives off blood. This doesn't make her dead, but it does make her allergic to sunlight (and she does also say she's not a girl, but I'm going with that pronoun to make life a little easier, and because I think referring to her as 'it' sounds ugly.) It does mean she will drink the blood of the first thing she sees when she's hungry. It does mean she can't really resist lapping up blood when she sees it. But it doesn't mean she can't control herself.

Set in winter in Sweden, the film starts with Eli moving in with her so-called Papa next door to Oskar. They meet in the courtyard as Papa goes hunting on Eli's behalf (it's worth noting Papa is not a vampire, but appears simply to be charged with her care) and Oskar falls in love, despite Eli informing him that they cannot be friends. After bonding over a Rubik's Cube their friendship is sealed, and they even start going steady. It is, really, a classic story of young love that cannot be, fraught with difficulty - Romeo and Juliet without the meddling parents, but instead a pesky habit of randomly killing and exsanguinating otherwise innocent people. And it's quite beautiful. It looks beautiful, with wintry exteriors and long, dark nights allowing for gorgeously textured visuals (has anyone else noticed that all indy films have started to share a similar beauty and shooting style? Not a complaint, yet, but watch for it...), the kids are beautiful in their own intriguing ways (probably their innocence), and the story is beautiful.

Speaking of the kids, much has been made of their performances, and quite rightly. Our two leads were playing twelve year olds, and must have been about twelve when the film was made. And they are pretty much the entire film. The adults are few and far between, and even most of the supporting players are kids of a similar age. For them to hold down a film like they did at that age is nothing short of extraordinary. And not even merely hold the film down - the completely owned their characters and made you feel for you. Rarely do children get an opportunity to take such dominant lead roles in significant films aimed at adults because, quite frankly, kids aren't generally the best actors when called upon for (almost) every single scene. These two do, and with style, grace, and a completely unfair amount of talent. Possibly the primary downside to the film - unless you were acting like this at twelve (ie unless you're Anna Paquin), you will feel like a desperate underachiever.

I'm going with 4 stars for this one. Maybe my expectation was too high after all that I have heard (and I have heard nothing but rave after rave after rave), but it didn't quite drag me in as deep as I was hoping. A fantastic film no doubt, but that je ne sais pas... maybe if I go back in a few years fresh it will lure me deeper. But still highly recommended.

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