by Teresa Vena
- Sweden’s Amanda Kernell delivers another family drama marked by a crisp directorial approach and an intelligent and intriguing story
It was in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of the 36th Sundance Film Festival that Charter [+see also:
interview: Amanda Kernell
film profile], by Sweden’s Amanda Kernell, was presented to an international audience for the very first time. Following the success of her first feature film Sami Blood [+see also:
interview: Amanda Kernell
interview: Lars Lindstrom
film profile] in 2016, there were high hopes surrounding this particular director and Kernell doesn’t disappoint, delivering another family drama, marked by a crisp directorial approach and an intelligent and intriguing story.
At the centre of the story is Alice (Ane Dahl Torp), a young mother who has moved to Stockholm whilst her husband and two children have remained in the countryside. Alice left the family home to pursue a professional opportunity, a fact her husband is struggling to accept. He takes it as a personal affront and decides to get back at his wife by keeping her children from her. A bitter custody battle ensues, which sees Alice occupy the lower ground as she’s considered to be a woman of dubious morals and unstable character. Desperate, and not entirely prepared for the consequences of her actions, she takes off with her daughter Elina (Tintin Poggats Sarri) and her son Vincent (Troy Lundkvist), boarding the first charter flight for Tenerife.
The scenery changes radically when we move from a dark and snowy climate to the heat and light of the sunny Canary isle. This transition isn’t just geographical; it also reflects Alice’s state of mind. Having felt repressed, discouraged and imprisoned back in Sweden, she now remembers what it is to smile, enjoying her new-found freedom in the Canaries. She’s determined to have a nice week with her children and to re-establish a basic sense of trust between them all. Alice swiftly takes stock of the growing distance between them without understanding the real causes behind it and therefore unable to put things right.
It’s with great sensitivity that Kernell paints the portrait of a woman whose desire for independence and emancipation seems - in the eyes of her entourage - to raise question marks over her ability to care for her children. Faced with her husband’s inflexibility - fuelled mainly by wounded pride - Alice realises she must make a difficult decision for the good of her children, much like in the bible story, the Judgement of Solomon, where a mother who genuinely loves her children unconditionally is forced to surrender for the latter’s well-being.
The film takes a different approach to tackling the dynamics of small families, a set-up which forms the basis of modern-day society. At a time when separation and divorce rates are high, children are always the ones who suffer when parents clash. The risk of their being used by one or other party is significant, even if not always intentional. Kernell shows us that not everything can be explained using logic and leaves ample room to explore the children’s feelings, revealing their inner conflict and insecurity. They don’t know who they should be loyal to, and often find themselves shouldering more responsibility than is necessary.
Besides a successful thematic approach which skilfully steers clear of clichés, the film shines as a result of the unique artistic form it acquires through the photography of Sophia Olsson, as well as an especially rich mise en scène. The performance delivered by Ane Dahl Torp, a Norwegian actress highly sought after in both the film and TV world, lends great complexity to Alice, and similarly, the film’s two younger actors, Troy Lundkvist and Tintin Poggats Sarri, portray hope, doubt, anger and sadness with awe-inspiring gravitas.
(Translated from French)
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