Let the Right One In
Film of the year so far!
Now set this intriguing mutation in the suburbs of Stockholm during the depths of a Swedish winter. Let the Right One In is that movie, and it’s some kind of a masterpiece.
Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is twelve years old, blond as a Midwich cuckoo, pale and pensive and easy prey for the bullies who plague his comprehensive school. His parents have split, and neither one seems keen to spend time with him. He doesn’t have friends to speak of. Instead he kicks around in the snowy playground outside his council flat and fantasises about avenging himself on his oppressors.
It’s there that he meets a new neighbour, Eli (Lina Leandersson), who is also 12 “sort of”, though she seems much more mature. Girls are at that age. Eli is dark haired, but even paler than he is, and there’s a faintly putrid odour Oskar will have to get used to. Eli has a disturbing habit of appearing and vanishing in the blink of an eye and walks around barefoot, in the snow.
Eli, it transpires, is as lonely as Oskar. There is a strange, unhealthy intimacy with a middle-aged guardian, a rather dubious, dirty-looking bloke named Hakan (Per Ragnar), who is soon implicated in a series of murderous assaults. But for Eli there is no school, no friends, not even a cat… Especially not a cat.
After a skeptical skirmish or two the two loners become fast friends, and gradually Eli confides several unsettling home truths about life on the dark side of town.
If that is all you know about this movie, you’ll enjoy it all the more. Stop reading now, go and see it, come back when you’re done.
Rated 15 by the BBFC, the movie does have some bloody moments, and brief nudity. Whether it’s really any more potentially harmful than Twilight – which was rated 12A – I’m doubtful. Most teenagers will understand this movie very readily – more readily than most adults, probably – and it would be a sheltered kid who was truly shocked by the violence. It scarcely needs to be said again, but I will anyway: Let the Right One In is the movie that Twilight should have been.
I don’t mean it’s not scary. Last time I checked, teenagers seemed pretty keen on scary movies. Let the Right One In is paced more evenly than most hyperactive Hollywood horror flicks, and it has a still, composed quality that’s in an entirely different key. Director Tomas Alfredson (Four Shades of Brown) knows what Michael Bay et al have forgotten, that we’re frightened more deeply and more effectively if we are implicated in the characters’ lives and care about their fates. He isn’t above the occasional macabre, shlocky touch – those cats for instance – but they’re gravy, the meat of the movie is in Oskar’s gnawing emotional hunger, his vulnerability and growing assertiveness under Eli’s influence.
That his increasing maturity goes hand in glove with his capacity for violence makes this movie much more than a pat moral fable. There is danger in relationships, and danger in self-expression.
The title, by the way, comes from Morrissey’s song, “Let the Right One Slip In”. This is the right stuff, even if it leaves you feeling a little queasy afterwards.
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