[Review] Let the Right One In

"To flee is life. To linger is death."

Based on a novel with the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist this peculiar story is told in a Stockholm suburb Blackeberg 1982.

12 year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrandt) is a bullied boy who seeks revenge on his evil-doers but lacks the courage. As the new neighbors move in next door, Oskar’s attention is constantly drawn to the window covered with cardboard. Although the new girl Eli (Lina Leandersson) tells Oskar they cannot be friends, he falls in love with her. However, she holds a secret that could either endanger or enchant his life. After all she has been 12 for 200 years.

This is a love story told not only from Oskar’s point of view but also from the people in his surroundings. His relationship with Eli crosses paths with the people close to the victims killed for Eli’s sake. Lovers are torn apart and friendships are tested to their limits. Question is how much fear love can overcome?

"I guess I forgot how to." answers Eli as Oskar asks her if she isn't cold.

I know what you’re all thinking so I might as well say it. No, this is not anything like Twilight. The closest thing to Twilight this gets is the vampire part. Unlike many modern vampire stories where the vampire is somewhat adult, Eli is allowed to keep her childish features (mentally of course as vampires do not physically age). She is still the 12 year old who is not yet able to sustain her hunger quietly in the shadows.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In is a piece of art with the Swedish signature of raw acting. Although revolving around two very young people both Leandersson and Hedebrandt deliver what I think is typical for Swedish acting. The two, and the whole cast for that matter all make you forget that this is not anything like a Hollywood movie. Getting into character seems to be on a different level in Swedish movies. The actors do what they’re expected to do, getting so deep into character that it makes you forget they’re only doing what actors do. Their skills have you so mesmerized by their characters that you have a hard time remembering there are entirely different people once off the stage. This very characteristic is common in Swedish movies, at least from my experience as I am very picky with my Swedish movies.

A very poetic and symbolic scene.

Although this movie might easily be interpreted as a love story between Oskar and Eli, the strongest character must be Håkan (Per Ragnar). Håkan is Eli’s blood supplier, killing people as necessary to satisfy her hunger. The portrayal of Håkan is made splendidly by Ragnar as he somehow manages to outshine the darker actions with the love and caring he has for Eli. A character one most definitely will remember…

Håkan, as portrayed by Per Ragnar.

The music plays subtly although as a Swede, I picked up the familiar voice of Per Gessle from time to time. Apart from this, the music wasn’t what I had my focus on. Instead of captivating music the movie has you engulfed in its fictional yet very realistic world.

The lack of visual effects profits the movie in a sense that it puts more focus in the story and on the details of the characters. Every now and then Eli’s face would change between the old vampire that she is and the young little girl she never got to be. It’s the simple scenery that captivates the viewer having you forget that this is actually a low budget movie. And it’s obvious that the author of the book insisted on writing the screenplay…

I believe Let the Right One In is a great illustration of how cruel children can be. As I grew up in a Swedish community in the late 80s and early 90s, I’ve seen many situations similar to the ones acted out in the movie. The truth is harsh and it sometimes hurts but it drives us to become stronger. I cannot help but correlate this movie with Håfström’s Evil where the story also revolves around a bullied boy. However different the movies may be, I’d like to believe the consensus is the same; as long as you’re driven by something, there is nothing you cannot overcome.

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