Call Girl (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/08/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 140 mins

Stylishly directed and beautifully shot, this is a powerful, engaging and relevant Swedish drama with a strong script and a pair of terrific performances from Pernilla August and newcomer Sofia Karemyr.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mikael Marcimain, Call Girl is based on a true story and set in 1976, during the run up to the Swedish general election. Sofia Karemyr stars as troubled 14 year old care home girl Iris, who's delighted when her friend Sonja (Josefin Asplund) ends up in the same home, but when the pair tag along on a night out with two older girls, they find themselves recruited into a high class prostitution ring run by powerful madam Dagmar Glans (Pernilla August).

Unbeknownst to her, Dagmar is under investigation by dogged police detective John Sandberg (Simon J Berger). However, Dagmar's clients include ministers, judges, a government press officer and Sandberg's superiors in the police force, so the case faces numerous set backs and Sandberg soon realises that his life may be in danger, particularly when the powers that be get wind of his investigation and conclude that if the details are released to the public they might as well call off the general election completely.

The Good
Newcomer Sofia Karemyr is excellent as Iris, achieving an emotionally engaging combination of feistiness and heart breaking vulnerability, while Pernilla August delivers a powerful performance that's both charismatic and genuinely chilling, particularly in the scenes where she's essentially grooming Iris and Sonja. Berger is equally good as the wiry, determined detective who doesn't realise he's in over his head and there's strong support from Sven Nordin as Dagmar's partner Glenn.

The film's impeccable 1970s production design work strongly recalls 2011's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which perhaps isn't that surprising, given that cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema shot both films and that Call Girl director Marcimain handled second unit duties on Tinker Tailor. The film is also skilfully edited and there's a terrific synth-heavy score from composer Mattias Bärjed.

The Great
In addition, the compelling script expertly balances unfolding political scandal and police investigation (there are elements of TV's The Killing) with Iris' more personal story, while the themes of the film seem particularly resonant in the wake of both Operation Yewtree and recent news stories surrounding Silvio Berlusconi.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a gripping and powerfully moving Swedish drama with impeccable production design work and terrific performances. Highly recommended, particularly if you're a fan of Nordic Noir.

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Content updated: 17/04/2014 17:07

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