Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Studio: Dreamrunner Pictures
Director: Markus Blunder
Review Rating: 7
A struggling family in the wild hills is repeatedly struck by tragedy, and the siblings have to fend for themselves when being terrorized by the local village folk.
It’s a very different film. A little like watching I Spit On Your Grave, without the revenge killings. There are scenes of exquisite beauty, mostly the nature scenes. Because honestly, even as gritty and real-feeling as the closeup rape scene was, I could’ve lived without it. Every single last character has five-or-less lines of dialogue, which is very different. Performances are drained from the actors, so we have a pretty clear idea of what’s going on even though they don’t speak, it’s like gradual torture. This idyllic existence in this gorgeous setting can be despoiled by the ugliness of some humans, and while that is certainly a powerful message to send, there seems to be nothing to soften it. The Girl (Sophie Lowe) sibling doesn’t even get a name, much less a break. The Girl is an innocent, just as much as her younger brother, in love with the joyous nature all around her, til the day she is caught sunbathing naked and subject to a local Butchers lusts. This scene in particular, like going to the dentist, is inescapable and somehow necessary. (Personally, I was waiting for the Girl to turn on that guy with a righteous fury right out of the Bible.) She comes home to find that while her innocence was being destroyed out there, in here tragedy struck and their Mother has passed away. The two siblings manage to give her a proper burial, despite the Girl’s condition, which is right severe. And then we try to continue on as we did before, with the Boy (Maximilian Harnisch) herding the cows and mending the fences, and the Girl faking her Mothers signature on money checks and generally housekeeping while her bruises fade. But hey, a female investigator has arrived here in town and is asking questions about the siblings. Meanwhile the Girl gets a repeat visit from the Butcher (Gustaf Skarsgard), who has brought some friends with him for what we assume to be a good old-fashioned gang rape. In the Girl’s house, while her little Brother is held hostage in the same room. By this time, half the audience is almost literally sick watching this, while the other half is in a rage for the sake of the siblings, and is anticipating some seriously violent retaliation. I was perhaps a bit of both. The butchers father, the Mayor of the freaking town (Peter Stormare), tells his boy to take care of this loose end, so the three guys who visited the siblings previously now go on a hunt for them through the sparkling woods, looking for the final showdown.
I wish I could say that the ending was climactic and furiously bloody. The hunt of the siblings through the beautiful woods was certainly trying. We the audience sat through all of these monstrous actions, waiting for a payoff of some kind. The Girl never fights back, it never even seems to occur to her. The Boy could barely lift the shotgun, nevermind firing it. It was an adult who saved them, and even then, it was at the end of their horrid ordeal and those scars are likely to never heal. If it truly is to be regarded as a coming of age story, noone should have to make the transition into adulthood like that.