FILM REVIEW: Let The Right One In

15 • 114 mins • 10 April

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragna

Rating:

There’s a recurring image running throughout this achingly bittersweet Swedish film (based on a novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist): someone pressing their hand against a pane of glass or a wall, yearning to make a connection with someone on the other side. It’s an appropriate emblem for this tale of the coming together of two lonely outsiders.

Stockholm, the early ‘80s. Twelve-year-old Oskar dreams of taking bloody revenge on the school bullies who make his life a misery. But his problems are nothing compared to those of his new neighbour Eli, who’s also 12 years old, but has been for a long, long time – she’s a vampire. Often portrayed as romantic, vampirism is nothing of the kind here, but a condition with all of the erotically-charged glamour of leukaemia. Slowly but surely, love blossoms between the two.

It often makes for desperately bleak viewing. Eli’s savage appetites must be fed one way or the other, prompting her grown-up companion (whose status is never quite spelled out: is he father, friend, former lover?) to hunt down teenage boys, slit their throats, and bleed them like halal meat. Tomas Alfredson’s decision to frame some of the most brutal sequences in wide shots doesn’t diminish their power, allowing you to paint all manner of morbid horrors in your mind’s eye.

But this is also a film of startling gear changes, equally gifted at whimsical humour and tenderness. Eli is a monster, but even after you’ve seen her tearing out throats and snapping necks (and witnessed the grief of those affected) it remains impossible not to be moved as these star-crossed teens tap out Morse-code messages to each other on the wall that divides them.

With its snowbound settings (appropriately chilly for a tale of youthful alienation), this is a film of great lyrical beauty. John Ajvide Lindqvist’s screenplay is remarkably understated. And both the young leads are exceptional – you find yourself rooting for this odd couple, however morally perverse their behaviour. Anyone who’s ever felt marginalised will find their heart captured by this subtle, touching, highly original take on vampire mythology.

Ian Berriman