Rates: * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Playing at the online version of the Sydney Film Fest, which I wanted to support.
Recently divorced Alice frets about her children. They are living with her ex in his remote home town, while she has relocated to Stockholm, and he has cut off her access while custody proceedings unfold. After an alarming late night phone call from her son, she takes rash, drastic action; she abducts both kids and scarpers to Tenerife.
Swedish director Amanda Kernall’s second feature film is a mature look at some very contemporary issues. It is suggested that Alice is both underemployed, and was the instigator of the divorce, both of which are held against her in socially conservative Sweden. The authorities are unhelpful, her social worker cold. It is implied, and then stated outright, that all of her troubles would be over if she would only shut up, go home and get on with being a wife and mother.
Her determination not to do that, in the face of all manner of different pressures, is really compelling. Ane Dahl Torp gives a heartfelt performance in a role that is like a 100 minute panic attack; her kids are mean and moody, her ex threatening, the cops are closing in, and she is isolated and short of money. All of these elements combine to squeeze this person, who, with no backup, and armed with nothing but a cheap ‘Tenerife’ souvenir baseball cap, has to come up with a solution that suits everyone. An impossible task, which highlights the difficult situations many women face.
As the holiday progresses, the kids start to warm up a little. They are angry with their mother for leaving, but they obviously love her. This reconciliation is shown in an incredible scene where the three of them sing along to Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything for Love’ in a crowded bar. It’s a goofy track, but they all know it well, and as they warm up to singing it, it provides a little respite. It’s not a happiness that can last, even the kids know their time together is nearly up, but a well known pop song can be an oasis, and sometimes that is sorely needed.
Kernall is from a broken home herself, and has spoken of how personal this film is to her. You can really feel it, and it is a rich experience to see the consideration with which the main characters in this film are drawn. She obviously cares about them very much. Me too.
Being a human being is a messy business, and our adult relationshiops can leave chaotic debris in their wake. This is a film about surviving that, re-finding your footing, and looking hopefully to the future.