Monday, December 29, 2008

Review: Let The Right One In


(2008, Tomas Alfredson)

For a vampire movie, Let The Right One In is pretty quiet. Substituting for all out scares and gore is mood and special moments. The film shies away from the more common 'horror' genre and goes for an exploration on the 'horrifying' aspect of vampirism. For the most part, the story is about the bonding that occurs between a young lad Oskar, 12, and a curious and sad vampire girl Eli, also 12 'more or less'. There is a side story of sorts that plays out as well between the friends of a recently deceased man (bitten by you know who).

Let The Right One In is a neat movie in that in packs a good punch but serves it in small doses through mostly quiet scenes. The development of Oskar's and Eli's relationship is sweet in the oddest way. She quickly takes a liking to the boy but unsurprisingly their bonding is a slow process, mostly because she is hesitant to let him in (get it?) to her world. They meet one night in the playground in front their apartment block and display a certain curiosity for one another. Oskar never suspects anything particularly odd about her but she does show hints of interesting behavior, or traits. Only a day after lending her his Rubik cube, she has already solved the puzzle. She can't seem to digest candy. All these, including that 'strange smell' arouse Oskar's curiosity. His innocence and harmless nature arouses hers. Their scenes are pretty well acted, given that we're dealing with child actors, something I'm rarely fond of. Kare Hedebrant as Oskar plays the role very innocently, but never falls into 'cutesy' territory. Lina Leandersson as Eli has the more difficult role of the two leads. She may be a child, but she has seen and committed worse things than Oskar could ever dream of. Finding the right balance between childlike playfulness and animal like barbarism must have been rather difficult. Thankfully she delivers in spades.

The movie certainly doesn't make any kind of attempt at glorifying the vampire lifestyle. In fact, it's almost as if director Alfredson wants the viewer to pity them, to understand them. Other movies have made needless, even if somewhat entertaining attempts at making vampires appear as cool. While there may very well be some people who play with the thought of being a creature of the night, I for one enjoyed witnessing a movie that seemed to show how glum that life must be like. I can't imagine there being any fun in choosing between suicide and sucking the blood of an innocent bystander, and the movie gives no hint that Eli is enjoying herself any more than I would. It doesn't look like any 'bloody' fun. This is another strength in the film's thematic narrative. A movie about vampires is often there to frighten. Let The Right One In refuses to follow that path and instead offers a study (of sorts) into the social behavior of a vampire girl. Sure, she's a blood sucking monster, but as a living being, she still retains many of her young girl traits. There remains a trace of a human aspect in her, as is probably the case in all vampires, although other movies more often than not won't show it. There is one rather logical scene (I felt at least) which shows a newly born vampire and what she thinks of her dubious new physiological status. It's sounds like such a depressing lifestyle and with this film that idea is used to maximum effect. Overall, I found myself pitying Eli, and that way I wanted her and Oskar to become friends. It's a cute story, in a 'I promise I won't suck your blood' kind of way. There have been some negative comments regarding the climax and how it fits into the overall tone and structure of the story. It is pretty intense, but I think it reinforced Eli's feelings towards Oskar well. Director Alfredson has a keen eye for developing character relations judging by his efforts here. I look forward to exploring more of his work.

Eli was only looking for a friend that she didn't need to kill after all. Everybody needs somebody sometimes, right?

1 comment:

Bill said...

Great review, agree 100% with everything you said. The tone of this film is what impressed me the most, that and the nuanced performance of Leandersson as Eli.