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Movie review: 'The Girl'

A Swedish film depicts a young one left in her own care.

September 30, 2010|By Gary Goldstein

The austerely titled "The Girl" is a lyrical, deliberately paced summer's tale of a 9-year-old Swedish child (never referred to by name) whose Africa-bound, missionary parents leave her in the care of her flighty aunt. It's no spoiler to reveal — an offhand remark tips us off to Aunt Anna's spotty reputation before she even arrives — that the girl must fend for herself around her rural home when Anna soon takes off with her Porsche-driving beau. The result is a kind of quiet Scandinavian cousin (OK, twice removed) to "Home Alone," in which patient viewers will find sporadic rewards.

The girl, memorably played with a gentle, sometimes eerie remoteness by freckle-faced waif Blanca Engström, learns basic self-sufficiency while keeping up appearances for a pudgy friend and her questionable parents, a local farm boy and a jovial swim teacher. Life lessons in anatomy, alcohol, white-lying and frog rearing crop up along the way, until the girl's loneliness turns her mildly wiggy and there's unexpected trouble. Oh, and there's a hot air balloon ride — it's that kind of movie.

Setting "The Girl" in a pre-cellphone-and-Internet 1981 not only gives director Fredrik Edfeldt and writer Karin Arrhenius leeway in the logic department but adds to the film's dreamy feel, as does Hoyte van Hoytema's ethereally lovely cinematography.

"The Girl." MPAA Rating: Unrated. In Swedish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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