All while watching The Girl, the feature film debut of Swedish director Fredrik Edfeldt, I kept thinking to myself, Why are Swedish films so damn bleak? I was never able to come up with a logical answer, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating this thoughtful rumination about childhood.
The film opens with a Swedish family planning a humanitarian trip to Africa. The parents soon find out that their nine-year-old daughter is too young to go. After much contemplation, they invite the girl’s aunt to come take care of her while they continue on their journey. The girl grows quickly annoyed with her aunt and orchestrates her leaving with an old boy friend. Now alone, the girl spends time with a farm boy that she likes as well as her chubby friend. The girl tells lies to other adults convincing them that the aunt is still around. She has little adventures with her friends and falls into a deep depression before her aunt and parents eventual return.
The protagonist of this film, credited only as The Girl (Blanca Engstrom), is a quiet, somber child who absorbs the world around her, making her seem much smarter beyond her years. However, regardless of how old she acts or how mature and responsible she thinks she is, she is still just a child and she ultimately learns this the hard way.
The film doesn’t have much going for it in the way of plot. It’s the girl’s view of the world around her that keeps you engaged in this film, yet that in of itself would not be enough to make this an interesting film. Engstrom is such a fantastic actress that you believe her every second she is on screen. Whether catching frogs, black mailing a drunk neighbor, or sampling alcohol herself for the first time, there is never a moment when you don’t completely believe what you see on the screen.
And therein lays the true bleakness of this film. Edfeldt shows us the banality of everyday life through of the eyes of this young girl and it’s not always easy to look at.
The Girl isn’t the most exciting film you could sit down and watch, but with a superb young leading lady, great cinematography and some thought provoking observations on childhood, this is unlike any coming of age story you’ve ever seen.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital. This is a very nice looking and sounding film. It’s not going to blow your mind or anything, but the look perfect captures the mood that Edfeldt is going for.
Sadly, there are no special features on this disc.
If you’re in the mood for a atmospheric, contemplative look at the life of a young Swedish girl living by herself for one summer during 1981, then this is the film for you. It’s not exciting but it does have one of the best young actresses you’ll have seen in a long time. If nothing else Blanca Engstrom is the reason to see this film. I’ll watching to see what she does in the future.
Olive Films presents The Girl. Directed by Fredrik Edfeldt. Written by Karin Arrhenius. Starring: Shanti Roney, Annika Hallin and Vidar Fors. Running time: 95 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 8, 2011.