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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 25.Mar.21
The Swedish Boys
Reviews by Rich Cline
21/UK NQV 1h42
Made over the course of a decade, each of these seven Swedish short dramas gets deep under the skin to explore issues of masculinity and sexuality. The boys at the centre vary in age, so the issues they're facing vary considerably, ranging from confusion and fear to the first flush of attraction and more complicated relational issues. Which brings up a range of emotional responses. Each story faces its trickier elements head on, challenging us to think about resonant issues that linger long after the credits roll.
dir-scr Jerry Carlsson
with Charlie Gustafsson, Deirdre Ross, Anders Danielsson
Coming Out Komma Ut
An internal monolog, this gentle Swedish drama centres on a teen grappling with coming out to his parents, touching knowingly on the feeling that he has been lying to them as well as the fear of how it will change their relationship. So even if the idea itself isn't hugely original, the wide range of thoughts battling in his head are vivid and revealing. And the film is beautifully put together.
Sitting in his bedroom strumming his guitar, Joel (Gustafsson) is trying to convince himself that now is the time to tell his parents that he's gay. But he's unsure whether it's the right moment, and how he should broach the subject. He knows this will make him feel better, and it will help his parents understand him. But as he sits down with them in the kitchen, he has second thoughts.
"It's still me," he thinks to himself, "but it's even more me." Gustaffson's expressive face conveys the voiceover without overstatement, revealing the doubts and fear as well as his tenacity. The feelings the film evokes are powerful and real, and Carlsson beautifully writes and directs to get inside Joel's head, quietly raising a range of big issues that carry a weighty punch. It may feel a bit simplistic, but there's a terrific sense of growing tension as it heads to a provocative conclusion.
Previously reviewed at BFI Flare 2012
dir-scr Eric Ernerstedt, Julija Green
with Viktor Akerblom, Eric Ernerstedt, Julija Green, Teodor Abreu, Jack O'Connor, Johanna Lysdahl, Erika Dittmer, Matti Myllyaho
A mini-feature, this light drama centres around two old friends who reconnect in very different circumstances. The extended running time allows the filmmakers to dig into a premise that perhaps isn't particularly original but has plenty of scope for development. It's nicely shot and edited on a low budget, with a strong cast that makes the most of the superbly meandering, everyday dialog to bring out internal thoughts and feelings, as well as knowing comments about bigger themes.
Nicholas (Akerblom) is bracing himself before Polly (Green) arrives for dinner, because she and his boyfriend Jacob (Ernerstadt) were a couple back in their high school days. As Jacob and Polly reconnect, Nicholas distracts himself with work. But he also makes an effort to get to know her and, as Polly's visit becomes extended, all three are soon having fun with various silly antics. But her growing closeness with Nicholas is now causing problems for Jacob.
This is a look at how relationships shift over time, how memories can be revisited through a whole new lens and how easy it is to step over a line. Conversations touch on several issues both from the past and the present, and Polly makes it clear that she wants a strong relationship like Jacob has with Nicholas. So where the plot goes feels a little simplistic, while the storytelling is rather hesitant. But it's still involving, and the filmmakers find some important currents in a relaxed look at the limits of friendships and the need to always keep moving forward.
dir-scr Nathalie Alvarez
with Josef Waldfogel, August Segerholm,, Simon Reithner, Emma Swenninger
A superb depiction of boyish charm, this loose drama has a wonderfully offhanded tone, sharply well shot and edited with a script that feels improvised. It centres on a close relationship between two brothers that shifts due to an unexpected discovery. Filmmaker Alvarez has a terrific eye, creating a bustling little story with a warmly beating heart. And she has something important to say.
The events are seen through the eyes of 7-year-old Filip (Waldfogel), who idolises his teen brother Sebastian (Segerholm). He writes reports about Sebastian for school, and loves hanging out, playing football and roughhousing with him and his best friend Big Filip (Reithner). Then one night he spots Sebastian and Big Filip sharing a private kiss, and he's not sure how to react.
Shot mainly in close-up, the film vividly captures Filip's lively personality, especially in his loose, childish interaction with his mother (Swenninger). With Sebastian, he's suddenly cool, mimicking everything his big brother does and feeling like a grown-up while hanging out with him and Big Filip. Because he's so easy to identify with, it's fascinating to watch him grapple with this new information, silently trying to make it fit into his still-developing world view.
dir-scr Alexandra Liten
with Par Kunze, Petter Nyberg, Moa Horngren
No Brakes När Bromsvajern Släpper
Shooting with a low-definition camera and using friends as actors, writer-director Liten made this short before going to film school. And it shows remarkable skill in the way it's directed, shot and edited. It's also set in gorgeous locations, while capturing a youthful sense of expectation as their interaction implies potential connections between the characters.
On a summery day, Johan (Kunze) is lost in thought as he hangs out with his sister Julie (Horngren) and his friend Anton (Nybert), cycling through the countryside, swimming in a lake and meeting up with a large group of friends for a sunset party that involves games, a guitar and plenty of beer. And there's a brief moment of clarity that lightens Johan's mood considerably.
The camera carefully observes Johan watching Anton, then staring out into the distance, clearly preoccupied by thoughts churning in his head. It's a wonderfully observant approach, with a documentary sense of fly-on-the-wall realism that allows tiny details to emerge in the way people circle around each other, all under Johan's watchful eye. Because the perspective is so strongly established, the film has a vivid emotional kick, taking us on a journey with Johan as he finds a reason to smile.
dir-scr Nils Asen
with Emil Jonsson, Mikael Bergsten, Kerstin Gandler, Maria Kruse
The Memory of You Minnet av Dig
Thoughtful and emotive, this gently paced short drama explores the inner thoughts of a man forced to confront someone from his distant past. Written and directed by Asen with knowing observations and raw emotions, the film is shot in a single complex take that follows the central character on a small but momentous journey.
While walking down a side street in Stockholm to have dinner with his wife (Gandler), Adam (Jonsson) spots something across the road that distracts him. After being seated in the restaurant, Adam makes an excuse and returns to check it out, meeting the artist Erik (Bergsten) at a small gallery opening party. It emerges that they have a history together and, even though he now has a wife and two kids, Adam has found it difficult to forget his feelings for Erik.
There's an understated honesty to this little film that quickly gets under the skin, especially as it's so sharply played by Jonsson and Bergsten, who add layers of nuance into their performances. The emotional connection between Adam and Erik is vivid, and Jonsson adds a sharp stab of regret as Adam revisits a relationship he thought he had put far behind him. It may feel a bit slight, but it's more than enough to offer a striking reminder of the power of a personal connection, even after we think we have moved on.
dir-scr Valentina Chamorro
with Monica Albornoz, Gabriel Nal, Robert Ingvarsson, Gloria Tapia, Adel Ahmad
A gentle mother-son drama, this little drama finds a range of intricate details in a rather messy relationship. The characters are beautifully written and played, and writer-director Valentina Chamorro nicely captures how so much of life feels unfinished, which allows for space at various places in the story. This may make it feel a bit unsatisfying, but the honesty is refreshing.
It opens as Eva (Alnornoz) arrives in Sweden for a short visit, looking forward to seeing her now-grown deaf son David (Nal). But Eva struggles to communicate with him, as her sign-language is rusty. And David is harbouring some unresolved feelings. So they hang out largely in silence, falteringly trying to reconnect with each other. Then she's surprised when David's boyfriend Simon (Ingvarsson) turns up, and his signing is fluent.
As the plot deepens and widens, Eva's past as a refugee comes into focus and she meets up with old friends in the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, David finds it impossible to contain his resentment that she abandoned him when he was a teen to return to her home country, and she never visited him as promised. This adds a bittersweet angle to their reunion, because she's happy that he has found love. And perhaps it's too early for David to realise that his mother is a flawed person with her own needs. It's a lovely, subtle call for compassion and understanding.
dir-scr Elin Overgaard
with Tom Ljungman, David Arnesen
Stockholm Daybreak Gryning
Gorgeously shot in the early morning on the empty streets of Stockholm, this mini-drama centres on two teen friends who open up to each other in unexpected ways. It's strikingly written and directed by Elin Overgaard, using close-ups and expertly choreographed physicality to focus on the closeness between these two young men who have the entire city to themselves.
It's the morning after an epic party, and Axel (Ljungman) is walking holm with his best friend Love (Arnesen), teasing him about the girl who was clinging to him all evening. But their conversation begins to get deeper, and they both start expressing their feelings, even as they continue dancing around the subject at hand.
The interaction between these guys is fascinating, and engagingly well-played by Ljungman and Arnesen to reveal all kinds of unspoken issues between them. It takes awhile but they do get there, expressing themselves physically after words fail them. It's a remarkably astute depiction of how difficult it is to say the most important thing to the most important person. And the incredible release when it finally happens.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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