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Review: The Girl

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An unusual summer


- The misadventures of a ten-year-old girl left to roam free in the countryside. A Swedish debut feature lauded at Berlin, Athens, Montreal and Estoril

Review: The Girl

The touching The Girl [+see also:
film focus
interview: Fredrik Edfeldt
film profile
, the debut film by Swedish director Frederik Edfeldt, has received special mentions at numerous festivals, from Berlin to Athens, from Reykjavik to Montreal. It also picked up a Cineuropa Special Mention at Portugal’s Estoril Film Festival.

The girl of the title, played by the wonderful Blanca Engstöm, is almost ten (her name is never mentioned in the film) and must spend a decidedly unusual summer for someone her age. She will face loneliness, independence and the discovery of new sensations, from tenderness to inconsolable sadness.

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The girl’s family has gone to Africa on a humanitarian trip and she stays behind with her aunt Anna, a depressed alcoholic incapable of taking care of herself. The girl ingeniously manages to send her aunt away for a few days, to remain alone in her little house in the remote countryside. She is free to do what she wants with her days, to decide what to eat and whether or not to go to swimming lessons.

Suddenly thrust in the adult world, the girl is forced to deal with the pushiness of her neighbour and the arrogance of his teenage daughter who, flanked by her emancipated and precocious cousin from Stockholm, vents her frustrations of being overweight on the girl, treating her like a servant and obliging her to do things she doesn’t want to do. The only glimmer of light is Ola, the polite, kind boy who lives nearby, with which the girl strikes up a sweet friendship until a terrible accident separates them.

Set in the early 1980s without internet and cell phones, when it was hard to communicate with someone who didn’t want to be found, The Girl reminds us how the adult world, when it is full of selfishness, hypocrisy and, ironically, immaturity, can harm and disgust children. Even leading them to unplug the phone, like the girl in the film, in the hopes of living their daily life in peace and without the sometimes unhealthy, unwelcome interference from adults.

Edfeldt’s film does not talk about teenage crisis or rebellion against parental authority. Instead, it can bee seen as a stern warning to adults, reminding them that certain gestures or words can forever mark the life of a child.

The Girl was produced by David Olsson for Acne Film with support from the Swedish Film Institute. It was written by Karin Arrhenius while DoP is Hoyte Van Hoytema (Let the Right One In [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile


international title: The Girl
original title: Flickan
country: Sweden
sales agent: Delphis Films (CA)
year: 2008
directed by: Fredrik Edfeldt
screenplay: Karin Arrhenius
cast: Blanca Engström, Shanti Roney, Leif Andrée, Annika Hallin, Tova Magnusson-Norling

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2009 Generation Kplus
Best Debut Film - Special Mention
International Jury Prize - Special Mention

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