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"I'm 12, and have been for a long time." This is a wonderful film, poignant, restrained, a little bloody and one to talk about
on December 7, 2008
Let the Right One In is poignant, sad, weird, different, elusive, as well as being a fine movie. Oskar is a blond 12-year-old who lives with his divorced mother in an apartment complex in Stockholm. He's bullied incessantly at school. Neither his mother nor his father seems to have much time for him. He's a quiet kid who dreams of getting back at his tormentors. He doesn't seem to have any friends. Then an older man and a child move into the apartment building. Her name, we learn, is Eli. She's 12 years old, too, pale, and at times looks haggard. Oskar meets her one evening in the playground in front of the apartment complex. Snow is deep on the ground. The weather is freezing. The cold doesn't bother Eli. By now we know Eli is a vampire. Oskar realizes this later.
Let The Right One In is a strange fusion of coming-of-age and horror, but the result is something else. Don't ask me what. It doesn't fit in any film genre I'm familiar with. Calling it `horror" is too facile. Calling it "coming of age" is too shallow. In the course of the movie people will die, drained of their blood. Eli's...what?...protector?...partner?...the older man named Hakan she lives with...will kill for the blood he and Eli must have to survive. He'll die a terrible death himself. Eli will tell Oskar that they can't be friends, yet Oskar yearns for friendship. He asks Eli to be his girl friend before he knows she is a vampire and she asks him if he would like her if she weren't a girl. When he asks her age, she tells him she is 12 and has been for a long time. Oskar's innocence may be part of his protection. Eli is not innocent, but at times she seems as fragile as Oskar. Like the man she lives with, Eli will kill for blood. She must.
Kare Hedebrant plays Oskar and Lina Leandersson plays Eli. I understand that at the time of filming Hedebrant was 12 and Leandersson was 11. Both were nonprofessionals. They are unnervingly natural. Neither makes a single false step. Hedebrant is exactly what a lonely, bullied 12-year-old could be. Leandersson is able to imply things we may not want to know just be being still. I wound up hoping for the best for both Oskar and Eli...but what the best might be could go in a number of directions.
This is a film, adapted from his novel by John Ajvide Linqvist, which invites discussion and interpretation. Not everything is kept clear, and, for me, that increases the sense of elusiveness. Lat Den Ratte Komma is a wonderful film.
Excuse me, however, if I reach for a barf bag. The director of Cloverfield, Mat Reeves, has evidently signed to make an English language version for Overture Films and Hammer Films. The chance that something unusual, unsettling and restrained will be turned into butcher shop leftovers is just about, I'd guess, one hundred per cent. See this movie while you can. Since it probably will be shown in only a handful of American theaters, I recommend you buy it sight unseen when it comes out on DVD. It's that good.