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Let the Right One In (2009)
14th Apr 09
A bullied boy befriends a young girl who turns out to have an unusual food source.
One of the first things that strikes you about Let the Right One In is how cold it makes you feel. This could be misconstrued to mean that it's a work devoid of emotion, but it is in fact the opposite - I actually got cold because of the constant snow on the screen, and watching a girl crunch-walking about in Swedish sub-zero temperatures in her bare feet.
A tender tale of childhood love, which also happens to be a savage vampire story, Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel is unlikely to be similar to anything you've seen before, or are ever likely to see again. Strewn with lashings of bloody imagination and an eye for ingenious detail
, it refuses to embrace the tired conventions of the vampire genre, instead serving up something genuinely earnest and poignant. 30 Days of Night this ain’t. You will believe vampires exist.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a bullied 12 year-old, who dreams of savagely getting back at his cruel classmates. Living with his mother in a glum housing block in Blackeberg circa 1982, his life takes an unexpected turn when a young girl and her guardian move in to the flat next door. But why have they covered the windows with pieces of cardboard? Soon, Oskar meets the young girl outside, who introduces herself as Eli (Lina Leandersson), and before she can say, "We can't be friends", the lonely souls start hanging out together.
Every now and again a genre movie comes along which, although belonging to a specific genre, stands apart from the rest, like Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch was to the Western. And this is how Let the Right One In should be remembered. Although essentially a vampire love story, it is sure to have somewhat more bite than another current release, Catherine Hardwicke’s teen vamp adaptation, Twilight, which looks tailor made to give instant heart throb kicks to adoring adolescent girls, just like the novel. The rewards of Let the Right One In will be infinitely more enduring.
Uniqueness aside, this is one hell of a stylish affair. Tomas Alfredson is a true master of filling the entire frame with information. His attention to detail and eye for beautifully symmetrical compositions don’t go unnoticed, and even he can’t resist the cliché of blood in snow – it just looks too good. Not that this is an over-stylised piece, though; Alfredson’s approach is pleasantly unobtrusive, letting his young actors carry the story instead of bombarding us with visual excess. He proves to us in the finale that he is highly capable of creating the kind of bespoke nightmare visions that most other filmmakers can only dream of.
If Alfredson's direction is masterful, then the same is to be said about his young actors. Kåre Hedebrant’s Oskar is a truly memorable character whose quirky ways and almost translucent physicality fit his character to a tee. Kudos also to Lina Leandersson as Eli, whose darkly engaging performance is every bit as powerful as this extraordinary young actor she’s playing opposite, and although the supporting cast of adults do faultless jobs here, their characters merely serve on the periphery to let these younglings steal the show. And helping everyone shine is Johan’s Soderqvist’s mesmerising score – a melancholic marriage of orchestra strings and classical guitar. A thing of sweeping beauty, it’s as much part of Let the Right One In’s landscape as the falling snow.
The admittedly slow pace of the film feels measured rather than sluggish, and with a running time of 115 mins, Alfredson makes sure to line the moving narrative with intermittent bursts of refined violence and consequence. Easily one of the finest films of the last decade, Let the Right One In is as fully realised as it gets. A thoroughly affecting and darkly dazzling piece of cinema.
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