Let the Right One In

Dir: Tomas Alfredson, 2008. Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord. Horror/Foreign.
Let the Right One In

Aside from being regarded as one of the best vampire movies to date, Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In is also one of the most apathetic and emotionally involving coming of age films. Its ability to paint a literally frozen portrait of Sweden post-Red Curtain while zoning in on the woes of childhood issues ranging from bullying to first love goes beyond the confines of a genre and allows the work to reach a rare platform of relatability that is truly a pleasure to behold.

Taking place in a small suburb of Sweden in the early '80s, the film is told through the experiences of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant)—a lonely pre-teen whose friendless existence and somewhat helpless position of a bullied youth has instilled in him a fascination with morbidness while simultaneously nurturing his eccentric personality. When a middle-aged man and his daughter move into the flat next door, Oskar takes a chance at befriending Eli (Lina Leandersson), the little girl.

Of course Eli is not your typical 12-year-old girl. As a vampire who is eternally trapped in the body of a child, she tries to keep Oskar at a distance for the obvious reason that her life is also one that doesn't grant friendship—though this is out of necessity. Her efforts go mostly unnoticed by Oskar and soon his innocence and kindness become too sweet to ignore. The two become close and young Oskar wants to go steady. Meanwhile their sleepy little town fills with fear and paranoia as the body count in a string of bizarre murders continues to climb. Being all too fascinated by the mundane, it's not long before Oskar comes to the conclusion that Eli is a vampire and that the victims were her food source. And though the lessons he's been taught in life from a community of passive elders tells him that he is madly in love with something evil, he cannot help but see all of his fantasies of revenge and strength being wonderfully incarnated through Eli.

Alfredson's film was an instant success in both Sweden and abroad, which he credits to the integrity behind the work—beginning with the cast. A yearlong search through all of Sweden was conducted to find two children who were able and strong enough to portray two old souls, as it were. Not just children who have a heightened sense of maturity, but ones who can make you recollect that wretched time in life when childhood and adulthood seemed like abstractions fighting for your attention. These are things not easily done by child actors. The result was a grand success, as both Hedebrant and Leandersson are two of the most astounding and aesthetically dichotomous children that I've ever seen. Both players, who had never acted in a feature film, are deserving of every positive critique that was thrown their way. Adults featured in the film are solid; however, since the film is Oskar's perception of the adult as an aloof and hands-off of being, they are appropriately made to come off as such.

The score is well-placed and subtle, but perhaps gives a little too much interpretational hints at times—especially with the film's ending, which even the director stated could be taken as happy or terribly depressing. After seeing the film several times over the past few years I can honestly say that is the only flaw I could find, which isn't a considerable one. The set design and cinematography come to a tie with the acting in terms of what gives the film its beauty. This is a film that I would recommend to just about anyone; you don't need to be a horror fan or a connoisseur of foreign cinema to enjoy this masterpiece.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
May 5, 2014 7:09pm
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