The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A reluctant post about a movie I probably should love more

with 20 comments

Some bloggers find pleasure in trashing movies in the most sadistic way possible. They take pride in pointing out inconsistencies and flaws and you can sense their underlying joy as they articulate their criticism (often in a very entertaining manner.)

I’m not one of those.

I’m at my absolutely happiest when I can share my unreserved love for a movie. And fortunately I’m pretty easy to please – or perhaps I choose movies wisely – because I end up loving most movies I see.

And then there are a few movies somewhere in between. The ones that don’t warrant a 1/5 or a 5/5, but something in between. And those 3/5 movies are the truly pesky one to write about as a movie blogger. Neither disastrous, nor brilliant, just a boring, halfway “meh”. It doesn’t really inspire to anything.

Sadly enough the new Swedish movie Eat Sleep Die ended up in this category. The in-betweeners, which I have nothing special to say about.  And I feel like a complete jerk for not loving it more than I do. How can’t I?

1. It’s about marginalized people in a rural area in Sweden. Those who rarely, if ever, are pictured on the screen. They’re working class, they’re unemployed, they’re immigrants, they’re poor, broken and ill. It’s about time someone moves out of the big cities to tell their story.

2. The director is a woman. In US about 7 percent of the movies are made by women. In Sweden the number is slightly better after efforts to give extra public support to female directors, but we’re still far from the official 50/50 goal. I probably should be loyal to my gender and support her, no?

3. All critics love it. And by “all”, I mean everyone. There’s no disagreement whatsoever and now they’re even going to show it to the Swedish parliament! That’s how publicly hugged this film is. I would be highly surprised if it didn’t win a bunch of categories in the Swedish yearly equivalence to the Oscar Awards, Guldbaggen. And it seems to be successful on the festival fare as well. How can I go against all those knowledgeable people?

4. Those behind the film seem like genuinely nice people if I’m to believe Emil over at A Swede Talks movies. He knows some people who were involved with the production and wrote a lovely, enthusiastic post after attending a private screening for the crew.

Everything would be so much easier if I just joined the crowd and wrote well put little celebration. But I can’t and once again I curse my refusal to pull a white lie when needed.

So here I am, wrestling my hands, trying to find a nice way to say that I’m not that much into it.

Not dark enough
There’s no doubt that Gabriela Pichler has talent for this. For a debut film, it’s more than OK. I’ve seen people comparing it to works by the Dardenne brothers and Winter’s Bone because of the kind of people it portrays and because of its naturalistic style, reminding of a documentary.

But Eat Sleep Die lacks something to really grab me. It’s not dark enough, not sad enough, not upsetting enough. For sure, it was a good thing that this girl Raša was looking for a job to support herself and her father, but I wouldn’t really call her situation desperate in the way it is in Winter’s Bone.  I had a vague feeling that I was supposed to feel much more sorry for her than I really did, possibly because of political reasons. I imagined it would have been easier to embrace it if I had been more to the left than I am in my views.  As it was now, I was void of emotions, slightly bored and caught myself checking the watch more than once.

Again: I feel bad about my lukewarm feelings. If it wasn’t for the fact that I watched the film in company with a bunch of other Swedish movie bloggers, I probably wouldn’t have written anything about it.  It’s the same as if you’re the only one who is giving a movie a bad rating at Rotten Tomatoes: you really want to have good arguments to back you up. And I don’t. I just don’t like it particularly much, a view which it seems as if I’m more or less alone about in Sweden.

So this is where this post halts. I admit there isn’t much substance in it, but then I was reluctant to write it in the first place.

Eat Sleep Die (Äta Sova Dö, Gabriela Pichler, Swe 2012) My rating: 3/5

My fellow bloggers in Filmspanarna are hopefully more enthusiastic about it.

Here are their thoughts (in Swedish):

Fiffis Filmtajm

Fripps filmrevyer

Har du inte sett den?


Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

October 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Eat Sleep Die

20 Responses

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  1. There are always some movies which are generally loved and where you will wonder yourself why you didn’t. I sometimes think that some people are just afraid to say that they are not as crazy about something as everyone else.

    Hadn’t heard of this movie yet, but if it comes out here I’ll give it a look…


    October 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

    • I doubt it will reach a broad audience abroad. But it will probably turn up at a lot of festivals.

      I think it’s natural that bloggers once in a while have a different opinon to the majority. Actually I would think there was something suspicous about a blogger who ALWAYS agreed with the established critics.


      October 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm

  2. Another honest post that I admire Jessica. It can be hard to write about films that everyone seems to love and yet you don’t share the enthusiasm. However, honesty is the best policy as they say and I have a lot of respect for those that do air their opinions that go against the grain.

    Mark Walker

    October 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

    • Thanks Mark. I try to be honest. This doesn’t mean to be contrarian just for the sake of it. I always try to stick to my gut feeling. Sometimes my gut feeling is the same as the one with the majority. But sometimes it just isn’t. And this was such a case.


      October 17, 2012 at 9:05 pm

  3. I thought you would end up giving it a 2/5. 😉


    October 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

    • I think my scale in rating movies is a bit different to the one you and Henke use. There are SO many worse movies out there. I don’t watch them myself, but I know they’re there.


      October 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

  4. Dang it. You and I saw this film the same way. I was sooo bored. It way so un-entertaining. I love me a dark, sad and emotional film now and then, but this was not it. This film was super-“meh”-ish. So why, why Jessica, how, how a 3/5??

    I gave it my true rating… 1/5.


    October 17, 2012 at 8:28 am

    • But you HAVE a different scale than I have, you should know that by now. 🙂
      Also as opposed to you I like Kid with a bike. I think I liked this movie a little more than you did. But I was still one of the most critical in our company.


      October 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  5. I very much know the feeling you’re describing here, about films that you A: don’t like as much as you think you ought to, and B: struggle to really say anything about. This happens somewhat frequently for me. Hence why I don’t write many reviews, I suppose.

    Too bad that you didn’t like the film. I did – or thought I did – when I first saw it back in June, though there was a lingering feeling that I was getting swayed by the whole event surrounding it, as well as knowing some people who were in it. Rewatching it earlier this week, however, has cemented it as a film I really enjoy. I love how accurately it captures the way people are in my corner of the world. I love how people talk like they do in real life, rather than the “theater on film” kind of Swedish that’s often found in Swedish movies. I love all the things I recognize myself from when I was unemployed. And I love how funny the film is, and the way in which it is funny.

    Thank you for the link, Jessica! Keep up the good work. 🙂


    October 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

    • Thanks Emil. I’m glad you cope so well with my lack of enthusiasm for a movie you loved. I can imagine the movie gets better if you live nearby where it was recorded.

      Regarding the naturalism in the movie, I thought it was there sometimes, but not all the time. There were scenes where the fact that it’s amateur actors became painfully clear. Again: other scenes were just fine. It was a bit uneven in this aspect.


      October 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  6. I think you have a brilliant taste in movies Jessica, you always choose very wisely indeed!!

  7. Agree with all the others, brutally honest as usual. But I would like to disqualify all your arguments as to why you “should” love this movie except for no 3 and I keep that one based on pure statistics. The more people who love a movie, the greater the probability that new watchers will also love it. Up to a point, that is because after a while the grumpy backlash effect comes into play 😉

    But there is absolutely no reason to feel obliged to like a movie because it deals with charitable issues or because it’s directed by a woman.

    That said, I naturally don’t agree with you about the movie as such. I thought it was liberating in that it _wasn’t_ more desperate (and I certainly thought it was desperate enough). This is after all a movie that is situated in Sweden where we have some social safety nets, not the States.


    October 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    • Tbh I don’t think those “reasons” are valid reasons. I just tried to describe the imagined “pressure” I feel to like this film. But as you say: you can definitely stand above it. Which I tried to here.

      When it comes to the level of desparation, I think it’s something that is a help for you to really engage with a movie. You need to make the stakes high enough, put the characters in an extremely difficult situation or else you won’t care about it as much. If the safety nets are better in some ways in Sweden, you can always find other problems that the characters need to deal with. It’s not just about economy. She could have been abused and desperate in some other way.


      October 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm

  8. Good post, Jessica. I like to think I’m quite good at spotting inconsistencies in a movie, so I don’t think honesty is all that wrong. I don’t think bloggers should censor their opinions. I guess I can’t help spotting flaws when I watch film. I often recommend and criticize a particular film, because hardly any movie to me is perfect. I’m ultra-critical. Some readers might think I’m over-critical, and that’s ok with me. Blame my uni days when we are encouraged to be critical 🙂

    Oh and I agree with Nostra, there can be a snowball effect among film critics, thinking they OUGHT to like a film.


    October 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    • Thanks Chris!
      I don’t think I have the same ability to spot details as you have. I wouldn’t be able to nit-pick a movie even if I tried to. Perhaps being able to overlook flaws is a bit of a blessing. At least it gives me more enjoyable movie experiences!


      October 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm

  9. Haven’t seen this one, but I know how you feel about the 3-out-of-5 films. When a movie is great, I generally find it easy to say why — the only trouble is finding ways to say it other than “this part was great, and this part was great, and this part was great.” But I always know why I like it. When a movie is awful, I have an easy time pointing out why I didn’t like it (and I’ll admit to being one of those who takes advantage of the negative review to get some catharsis on a particularly bad film.)

    But the ones where I just wind up saying “Yeah, it was all right” are tough. It’s very hard to say why I was just “OK” with it, because in one sense, there isn’t anything to point to. If there was something particularly good or bad about it, that would push it toward being a good or bad film. But it’s not, it’s just OK. It probably entertained me while it was on, but that was probably about it. There’s nothing more notable about it, and there’s nothing more to say.

    And I really hear you on when it’s one that everybody else seems to love. At least if I hate a film that others love, I can usually point to reasons for the discrepancy. But if it just doesn’t wow me as much, it’s a lot harder to articulate why.

    Morgan R. Lewis

    October 18, 2012 at 9:56 am

    • Fortunately for me it’s pretty rare that I’m at 3/5. I like most movies I see. But I’m with you. It’s really hard to come up with something to say about the 3/5 ones.


      October 22, 2012 at 7:44 am

  10. Great post. You capture a familiar feeling. It’s very easy to write about a movie that you absolutely hated or one that you fell head-over-heels in love with, but the “inbetweeners”, as you say, are the real tough ones.


    October 19, 2012 at 9:55 am

    • Thanks Fernando. Yeah, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? All movies should be either fantastic or terrible if a blogger could decide. Nothing inbetween.


      October 22, 2012 at 7:45 am

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