Let the Right One In, 2008.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar.
A 12-year-old outcast who is frequently picked on by his classmates dreams of getting his revenge, and with the arrival of his new next-door neighbour, he may finally have found a friend, ally, and first love.
2009 has been a pretty good year for vampires. A few months after thousands of twelve year olds around the globe swooned over the poster-perfect adolescents that vogued their way through Twilight, a slightly more mature audience went equally as mental over Tomas Alfredson’s vampire movie for the slightly more discerning cinema goer.
Let the Right One In is an adaptation of the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel of the same title. It tells the story of Oskar, a lonely twelve year old living in suburban Stockholm in the 1980s who befriends Eli, a vampire seemingly the same age as him who moves into the flat next door. The two of them form a friendship that provides solace for the pair of them, as Eli battles with the guilt that results from her blood thirsty nature and Oskar deals with the frustrations of bullying, the separation from his father and feeling isolated in a world where no-one seems to understand or appreciate him.
Boo bloody hoo. Please excuse me whilst I try and swallow the bulging lump in my throat and wipe a tear from my welling eyes. Judging by the number of reviewers that not only sang the praises of this film, but wrote their own mini opera in fervent celebration of what has been referred to as the ‘best foreign language film of the year’, I’m guessing that there were indeed quite a few tears shed over the ‘sweet, cute, innocent and gentle’ relationship between boy and vampire. I however, remained dry eyed from start to finish. After forcing myself through a second viewing to see if I could catch even a momentary glimpse of what apparently everyone was wetting both their eyes and their pants over, I continued to be completely baffled as to why this movie was repeatedly having ten, eleven, twelve and probably even a hundred stars thrown at it by every single person who had seen it. One reviewer even said ‘I was moved beyond my ability to wholly put how it made me feel into words.’ Yeah, so was I. Mainly because I was too busy choking on my own disbelief that this film was being hailed one of the cinematic masterpieces of the year.
Ok, so I wonder how many enemies I’ve made already. It’s ok guys, you can stop waving your middle finger at your computer screen, I didn’t think it was all bad. In fact, I really didn’t think it was a bad film, just entirely average. It was more entertaining than say, staring at a shelf of envelopes whilst you wait in an hour long queue at the post office, and probably more fun than doing a non-calculator maths exam, but on reading numerous reviews that mainly consisted of critics getting right up the films metaphorical arse and snuggling in its small intestine, I was more than a little confused as to why it was getting so much attention. So my opinions are mainly driven by huge sense of mystification over these rave reviews, not hate for a dreadful film. Ok, maybe a little bit of hate. Just a smidgen. This small amount hate began a-mustering when I could literally only find one reviewer who had the same kind of indifference towards to the film as I did, and even then his main criticism was that it didn’t make any sense, which unless you’re non-Swedish speaking and watching it without subtitles, this just shouldn’t be the case. The film isn’t confusing, it’s just is a bit slow which I didn’t have a problem with, in fact I thought the pace of it worked reasonably well. The whole slowness of it was enhanced by the cinematography with its long takes of the wintry Swedish landscape, and I also liked how some of the shots were cleverly multilayered in order to isolate certain characters away from others. Oh and it had cats in it. I like cats.
However, I did find myself getting a bit bored with it all, mainly because I found it so hard to care about any of the characters. Please see fig 1. for a pictorial representation of this boredom.
Fig 1. This is the result of the moment, about a third of the way through my second viewing of the film, when my left hand, a black marker and a crumpled bit of paper became far more interesting than what was on the screen before me.
The majority of its fans harped on about how unique it was, which I can kind of see at first, but once you get over the fact that the blood-hungry subject of the film and her new companion/boyfriend/possible next meal are both children, I don’t think there’s much originality left. He’s a lonely, bullied odd-kid who lives in the middle of nowhere and has parents that don’t really have much time for him, she’s a vampire that suffers from post neck-chomp guilt, and then of course there are the inhabitants of the surrounding area who are ‘onto them.’ I found it all quite achingly predictable from the first moment she appears ragged and barefoot in the snow, being all eerie and giving Oskar the old ‘I can’t be friends with you’ line which we all know means the exact opposite. She might as well have said, ‘Good evening. For the purpose of maintaining the inevitable ominous nature of our first meeting, I will momentarily pretend that I can never be associated with you. But just to give you a heads up, we will in fact be best of buds by this time tomorrow. Then you will give me your Rubik’s Cube as a gift after I tell you I’ve never received any presents before as surprise surprise, I don’t know how old I am or when my birthday is. Will I have inexplicably solved this almost impossible puzzle by the time I return it to you the following day? I course I fucking will. Pleased to meet you.’
Maybe it’s just me, perhaps I’m just an emotionally vacant android with a lump of concrete instead of a heart, but I really didn’t believe the relationship between these two. As well as feeling quite frustrated at the end by the quite easy and unsatisfying conclusion in which Eli returns to save Oskar from the bullies like we all knew she would, I was also left feeling quite cold and detached from it all. Kind of like the feeling you get when there’s nothing on T.V, so you end up watching a documentary about some bloke you’ve never heard of who was from a place you never even knew existed and did something vaguely heroic during a war you never realised had even taken place. That sort of cold and detached. I did find the relationship between Eli and Hakan, the peculiar older man that she lives with in her dank flat slightly more interesting. Who was he? Her father? Her slave? A former childhood friend who has now grown up and can’t separate himself from her? I guess we’ll never find out seeing as she ripped out his throat and threw him out a window half way through the film. As for Oskar and Eli, I was pretty much just sick of looking at the pair of them by the end of the film and was almost hoping she would eat her snivelling little pal, before turning her blood encrusted gob on herself, gradually gnawing away at her own limbs until she was just a head and torso rolling around in the pretty white snow. At least she would be more interesting to look at than when she’s skulking around with one facial expression like she is for the rest of the film.
At the end we see Oskar and a big wooden box sat on train. Where are the boy and his contained vampire friend going? I have no idea, and as long as they don’t make the return journey for the sequel I really couldn’t care less.