World Cinema: Let the Right One In (2008)

Let the Right One In, 2008.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar.

Let the Right One In poster
SYNOPSIS:

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.

Let the Right One In
[SPOILERS AHEAD]

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.

Amy Flinders

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  • Anonymous

    My name is Ahmed Sellam and Im from Libya Africa. I watched the film and all I can say is that every Director in my country Libya could makea a better film as this one. The actors were terrible the boy is so ugly he looks like a troll no wonder he was bullied. The girl the vampire looks more normal the views of a terrible snowy country make me almost puke. Plot is the badest of all. The movie is

  • Anonymous

    Hey Amy, it looks like Ahmed there agrees with you. At least soemone does. Maybe you can keep each other company lol.

  • Anonymous

    I cant stop laughing after these two reviews.<br />The Director Alfredson gets the same question every day which makes his eyes role. &quot;Why didnt youmake an ordinary vampire movie like Dracula?<br />He said &quot; If I had wanted to make one I had mad one&quot; He continued &quot; I wanted to make a different vampire movie&quot; He did and he suceeded. Most movie lovers and Critis all over

  • Mig Shaw

    Danny Boyle loved it… Guillermo del Toro loved it… Amy something didn&#39;t… meh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18168467177380824337 flickeringmyth

    I&#39;m sorry but I didn&#39;t realise that if Danny Boyle or Guillermo del Toro liked a film then everyone else had to follow suit. Is that why you liked it?

  • Anonymous

    Ahmed there needs to tell his school to buy new worldmaps, and perhaps a new english dictionary. The movie is set in Sweden, nowhere else, they speak swedish throughout the whole feature. If he was a wee bit more intellctual he would realize this.. but what do u expect?

  • Anonymous

    I thought Let The Right One In the best film I saw in any langauge in 2008. But I enjoyed your candor and your take. For me the exploration of friendship, the potential for evil and for good as consequences of violence, and the examination of adolescence made it literature on film.<br /><br />I found the emptiness of many of the shots very important in the telling of the tale. Some of the shots,

  • Anonymous

    Did you even watch this movie? Your comment about how Lina Leanderson (Eli) skulked around with the same expression on her face for the whole movie tells me you mustn&#39;t have. Her performance was absolutely astonishing for a girl her age. She can communicate more with one subtle change of expression than most actors accomplish in a whole movie. <br />Heres some homework for you Amy. Go back

  • Dirk

    wow, those are fat fingers…

  • Anonymous

    Amy, you seem to be so caught up with the fact that is was &quot;Oh so predictable&quot;, that you entirely missed the fact that Eli is actually a castrated boy. Whats more you supposedly watched it twice, and still the penny didn&#39;t drop. <br />How many films can you name where a 12 yearold boy has a platonic love affair with a 200 yearold androgenous vampire trapped in the mind and body of a

  • Amy

    In response to Daniel, I was aware of the fact that Eli was a boy, hence why she later tells Oskar that she isn&#39;t a girl, and why they include that shot of her getting changed showing a &#39;vagina&#39; thats actually supposed to be a scar from castration. <br /><br />And you&#39;re right, there probably aren&#39;t any other films where a young boy has a relationship with a 200 year old

  • Anonymous

    Lol Amy I dont understand the meaning of searching for flaws when watching this movie.<br />Iam a movie freak, like movies both American and &quot;foreign&quot; must say this movie is one of the best foreign I ever saw. Within Vampire this is absolutely the best. <br />The fact is if one is used to Hollywood movies its a bit hard to watch a Foreign one. But when you have got over it and really

  • Oliver Bettesworth

    First of all, let me say what a damned shame it is to read that there are so many readers of this blog who seem entirely unable to understand what a film review is. Some of you, in fact, appear to be rather confused about the fact that the writer here has quite obviously used a little bit of what is called flair, artistic license, and exaggeration in order to make the piece more interesting to

  • Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly Oliver. Many people seek to look intellectual by claiming they know how to &#39;really appreciate&#39; a foreign film. It&#39;s just there way to try and make themselves look above hollywood. With there opinions that they can watch these films while the &#39;simple minded audience&#39; cant. Its a classic cliché of cinama snobbery, to try and appear as experts.

  • Anonymous

    Amy<br />You didn&#39;t mention Eli&#39;s androgenous nature in your blog. Its a fairly important plot twist so I assumed that you hadn&#39;t noticed it. My apologies if that wasn&#39;t the case.<br />Your right in one sense that it was predictable. I guess all love stories are when you think about it. <br />Predictablilty doesn&#39;t have to equate with bad storytelling. In &quot;The Shawshank

  • Anonymous

    Daniel you are so right. Im also very interested in what Oliver disagreed with Amys review. Lot of comments here are made by non-English spoken peple and a lot of them as well as me are upset about Amys reveiew. Unfortunately at this board we must write in English and sometimes cant really express what we mean. I think its good for once to see that a&quot; Foreigb film &quot; can become so

  • Greta

    Hahaha!<br />AHMED you are soo funny!! and so is AMY&#39;S Review

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the review Amy, it was a breath of fresh air. I personally am addicted to this film, but can acknowledge that it is imperfect, with many aspects that are unoriginal.<br />I believe that LTROI carries a definate magic, one that has it&#39;s hooks firmly in my heart, however I am sick and tired of the untouchable status afforded to it! <br />The fascistic insistance that this movie must

  • Anonymous

    American movies are the best. We can all agree to that. Its just a waste of money and time to let stupid European countries make movies. Foreign movies have always been crap. They will always be crap. One must be an idiot if one appreciate them. You cant understand what they are saying. You must read some retarded subtitles. It should be forbidden for Europeans to make movies.

  • theorl

    Maybe you should wait for the American remake. Save you trying to read the subtitles.

  • Anonymous

    I agree I hate foreign movies no matter how good they are. I just hate them and you should too. I cante even watch 20 sec before I almost start puke. I have tried several times but its impossible. Some peole here wait for an American remake. But why? Its crap. Why make a movie written by a stupid foreigner in this case a Swede. Hollywood have already so many good writers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18168467177380824337 flickeringmyth

    Well about the only thing I can agree with from that last comment is that the American remake will be crap!<br /><br />Obviously it&#39;s completely impossible to argue that all foreign movies are crap. There are countless quality films and in my opinion anyone averse to subtitles really is missing out. But by the same token, subtitles and a foreign language don&#39;t automatically elevate a film

  • Amy

    Thank you to the person that referred to my review as a &#39;breath of fresh air&#39;, nice to know that there are a few people out there that can generally or perhaps completely disagree with what I&#39;m saying whilst still be able to understand my point of view! Glad you enjoyed the review.

  • Anonymous

    I have seldom seen a bigger bunch of garbage comments than on this board on both sides. This movie will neighter become better nor worse whether we hype it or dis it. The only thing we know its loved by millions of ppl I think its a good movie generally better than most foreign movies. Different? yes but in a good and refreshing way.

  • Anonymous

    Many movie watchers hate &quot;Foreign&quot; movies because they are slow and stupid compared to American ones. Yes I agree but also think that there is nothing more pathetic than seeing a &quot;foreign movie that tries to look like a Hollywodd one. <br />Foreign movies should be fifferent and slow and a little retarded. I like these stupid foreign movies when they are like foreign movies. This

  • theorl

    Maybe you should wait for the American remake. Save you trying to read the subtitles.

  • Anonymous

    American movies are the best. We can all agree to that. Its just a waste of money and time to let stupid European countries make movies. Foreign movies have always been crap. They will always be crap. One must be an idiot if one appreciate them. You cant understand what they are saying. You must read some retarded subtitles. It should be forbidden for Europeans to make movies.

  • Chris Mankey

    Shit review!