out of Five
Running time: 108
Impressively acted but depressingly bleak drama, with lashings of Swedish miserablism.
Decent foreign films often get short shrift when it comes to theatrical distribution in this country – film festivals such as Edinburgh or London are packed with terrific foreign movies that are destined never to make it to a cinema near you. The award-winning Daybreak, however, is one of the lucky ones – it’s finally getting a cinema release, almost a full year after it played at last year’s London Film Festival.
The film is set in an unnamed Swedish town over the course of one night and centres on three parallel stories, each of which illustrates the theme of the failure to communicate, often in spectacular fashion. The first story concerns Agnes (Pernilla August, aka Darth Vader’s mum), a housewife who suspects her handsome heart surgeon husband, Rickard (Jakob Eklund) is cheating on her.
The second story is perhaps the most disturbing: bitter, middle-aged Anita (Ann Petren) is still angry at her ex-husband, Olof (Peter Andersson) for leaving her and marrying a physical therapist half his age (Sanna Krepper).
Fuelled by rage (and perhaps a dip in her medication) she breaks into his house and holds her ex and his wife hostage with a stun gun.
Meanwhile, in the third strand, workaholic bricklayer Anders (Magnus
Krepper) annoys his family when he forgoes some much-needed bonding time in favour of accepting an unusual job at the house of Knut and Mona (Ingvar Hirdwall and Marika Lindström), a paranoid couple who want Anders to wall them into their home.
The performances are excellent. Ann Petren, in particular, is genuinely scary as the scorned Anita, who goes further and further over the edge as it becomes clear that the idea of another woman living in her house has driven her insane. In fact, her rants at Olof’s wife provide the film’s only moments of –admittedly dark- humour. Pernilla August is also notable, playing the film’s most immediately sympathetic character – the expression on her face as she struggles to hide her pain is heartbreaking.
There are echoes of Bergman throughout Daybreak, particularly in writer-director Runge’s use of close-ups and choice of subject matter. It’s also to his credit that the film remains engaging, even at its bleakest points – a contributing factor here is the editing between the segments, which is neatly handled.
In short, fans of bleak Scandinavian drama are in for something of a treat.
For everyone else, the film remains worth seeing thanks to the powerful performances and Runge’s assured direction; at least, as the title implies, there’s a little bit of hope at the end. Recommended.
Daybreak (Om Jag Vander Mig Om) (15)