The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Swedish She Monkeys conquers the world – but doesn’t convince me

with 8 comments

It’s been long since last time I watched a Swedish movie that I considered genuinely awesome. To be honest I can’t think of any since Let the Right One In from 2008. Admittedly I haven’t watched every Swedish movie to be launched. But the ones I’ve seen have been somewhat lacking, which is saddening.

Like my fellow blogger Joel Burman over at Deny Everything, there’s nothing I’d rather do than to help promoting Swedish movies to the rest of the world. But I don’t promote things that I don’t like. This is a personal blog, not a marketing website, and I’ll never hide my true feelings about a movie regardless of its origins.

Apflickorna, or She Monkeys, as it’s called in English, raised my hopes to finally get something to praise. After the movie was completed a year ago, it has toured the world, going from festival to festival, and if I’m to believe the Swedish media, it has been extremely well received. It even got the top prize at the Tribeca festival, and Robert de Niro, who is some kind of protector of that event, told the world how good that movie is. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Last week it eventually came up in the Swedish cinemas, and the reviews from Swedish critics have been very, very positive, giving it maximum or almost maximum grades, with few exceptions.

I too wanted so badly to love She Apes. Not only because it’s Swedish, but because it’s made by a new, young female director, her first movie ever. How wonderful isn’t that? But I think you already know where I’m heading with this review. You sense the faint smell of disappointment hanging in the air.

One reason for my frustration is that I see so much unfulfilled potential. The basic idea is good – two teenage girls both train equestrian acrobatics (gymnastic tricks on a horse back). In that kind of environment, where girls are pressured and putting a lot of pressure on themselves to reach perfection, things can go nasty and that’s what happens here.

We get a hint of it as we follow the development of the relationship between the girls Emma and Cassandra. One moment they show friendship and intimacy, bordering to sex. A few minutes later we see them intriguing or playing games to get power and control over the other girl. But we never really get close to them, and maybe that’s the point, but it also makes it harder to become invested and care for them.

I would have liked to see some more edge, more darkness, and more depth, basically more of everything. There’s something unreleased over the entire move. Not very much is going on and we never get under the skin of anyone.

Another major problem is that the teenage actors, all of them new and unknown, aren’t all that good at acting. It works fine as long as they don’t say anything. But as soon as they open their mouth to talk, I cringe, because they deliver their lines so badly. Thankfully enough there’s at least one child actor who can act well in this movie: six year old Isabella Lindqvist, who plays the little sister of Emma. She’s brilliant, outplaying everyone else by far (which admittedly isn’t all that hard.)

But I can’t help wondering why movies nowadays market and brag about that they have so and so many actors that aren’t actors, but someone they just met in the street. Is that really a good thing? What’s wrong with trained and experienced actors?

I wish She Monkeys all the best though. Lisa Aschan is indeed a very promising director, and I’m sure that the Swedish Film Institute did a good choice picking her as one of the five “rookie” directors they wanted to support financially.

All in all I wouldn’t advise anyone against watching it. It has interesting components and a director with the potential to go far, worth to keep an eye at. And besides, I suppose each ticket you buy will support the making another Swedish movie. At least that’s what I hope.

While I’m waiting for a better Swedish movie I can always comfort myself with all the positive buzz from the film festival in Venedig about Tomas Alfredson’s movie Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The movie may not be Swedish, but the director is. Better than nothing.

She Monkeys (Apflickorna, Lisa Aschan, SWE, 2011) My rating: 3,5/5

Written by Jessica

September 9, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in She Monkeys

8 Responses

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  1. As I mentioned in your A life in Movies post there is a great Swedish film at the cinema right now and thats “Försvunnen” it deserves to be seen by a lot more people.

    Swedish print critiques and the Swedish Film Institute really value festival success and use it in their marketing I wish they would focus more on international Sales. I have been working for a sales agent for the last year and I think its a more valid way to measure success than through film festivals that are so niched.

    Thanks for a heads-up review. I’ll rent this when its released on DVD.

    Joel Burman

    September 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    • If nothing else I’m impressed at the effort of making “Försvunnen” – with no support at all from the Film Institute. That’s quite an achievement! I’ll see if I can squeeze it into my viewing schedule. Right now it’s pretty tight and I still haven’t found the opportunity to see Midnight in Paris, which is my top priority right now. But maybe. And if not, I’ll try to catch it up later on DVD.

      I’m honestly a little amazed at the reception of Apflickorna. It will be interesting to see your take on it eventually. No one of the Swedish blogs I follow has written about it so far.


      September 9, 2011 at 11:35 pm

  2. I watched this in the weekend and I was dissapointed. As you say the actors aren’t really acting but rather saying their lines in a very stiff way. I’ve read that the film is supposed to be sort of western but set in a different environment so the non-acting can be a way to get that true grit feel maybe.

    I was not as nice in my grade as you were. I gave it a 2-/5.

    Here’s my google translated review:

    Also, if translating directly from swedish the english title shouldn’t the title be “The Monkey Girls”?


    January 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    • People always tell me I’m too kind with my grades compared to my reviews. It’s very rare that I give 1s and 2s. But I did see some promising elements in the film. It wasn’t enough to hold up for the ridiculous praise though.

      Regarding the title – I went for how it was named on IMDb. I think it’s been traveeling on the festival circuit with that name.


      January 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      • Yes, I know, “She Monkeys” IS the international title (at least on IMDb). I was just saying that it’s not really a correct translation, I didn’t mean that you were wrong in any way. I know it’s not your job translating swedish movie titles, eventhough you problably would do a good/better job. 😉


        January 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

        • Hehe now I get you. Well at least it’s closer to the Swedish title than some translations we’ve seen from foreign titles to Swedish. You know how mindboggling they can be at times…


          January 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  3. Btw, here some swedish movies from the last couple of years that I gave 4-/5 or more.

    Snabba cash
    Låt den rätte komma in
    Jägarna 2
    H:r landshövding


    January 23, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    • O those I’ve only seen “Snabba cash” and Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In). Snabba Cash was fine and Let the Right One was excellent.

      I missed Play I’m afraid. Perhaps that’s why this year feels so depressing as comes to Swedish movies.


      January 23, 2012 at 7:39 pm

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