Swedish She Monkeys conquers the world – but doesn’t convince me | The Velvet Café

apflickorIt’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

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