Monday, December 29, 2008
Kids are like people- they have some quirks to them. Take Eli, a preteen girl who befriends Oscar, a boy of the same age. Eli likes to walk outside at night without shoes or a jacket, despite the freezing cold. She doesn't go to school, she doesn't eat candy and she can fly. Oh yeah, she's also a 200 year-old vampire.
So unfolds the story of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, a slow-moving Swedish film that explores a relationship built on secrets and private lives. Oscar's private life is vast- he hides that he's a victim of violent bullying at school. Oscar's mother has not told his school that she has separated from Oscar's father (it is inferred in a later scene that Oscar's dad is gay). And Oscar harbors homicidal thoughts, seeking revenge against those who threaten him. Based on this set-up, the vampire girl seems like the normal one. She kills for food- out of necessity. Oscar's bloodlust is much more dangerous in theory. But that's where Oscar's violent tendencies exist- in theory only. Eli and Oscar are fascinated by one another, and the film's central concern is watching their curiosities keep them moving together.
The movie is interesting, I won't say I was blown away by it. The characters are compelling, mostly due to excellent acting, but also benefiting from a sparse script that forces the audience to think things through. There is a sense of urgency surrounding Eli, as she has to convey to Oscar the limitations she has, all of them hints to his ultimate realization that she's a vampire. The plot, however, has problems that cannot be ignored. A small village in Sweden is just that- a small enclave of civilization. If people started getting murdered, the town would cease to function. While the body count ticks upwards, there seems to be little reaction by the people. It's not the point of the movie, I know, but these logical inconsistencies have a way of adding up. If this wasn't some foreign film, if it took place in Pennsylvania, starring an American cast, I guarantee you film critics would be less forgiving.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is an original take on the vampire film genre. I like the characters and the concept a lot. Unfortunately, I think the story is half-baked. This is a move that flirts with being great, but ends up being a decent film at best (which is good).