★★★★ - STUFF
- Britt-Marie Was Here is a charming and convincing character study brought to life by perfectly pitched pacing, well-crafted writing and a terrific performance from the actor playing the main protagonist -
Britt-Marie Larsson (Pernilla August) has always led a “sensible life”.
Priding herself on her presentable home, she believes in always making a list, doing one thing at a time and putting everything in its place. Rising at 6am each morning, the 63-year-old Swede’s routine consists of cleaning, laundering, shopping and cooking.
Husband Kent (Peter Haber) has always taken care of business, she has always looked after the house. “It has worked well for 40 years,” Britt-Marie beams. Or, at least, that’s what she thought.
However, when Kent suffers a heart attack, Britt-Marie is dismayed to find another woman by his bedside. Instantly packing her bags, she starts looking for her own source of income for the first time since she was a waitress four decades ago.
Desperate to secure her future, she jumps at the first opportunity – a youth worker position in the small town of Borg. With rundown facilities and challenging kids, it’s not exactly a plum role, especially when one of the tasks involves coaching her estranged husband’s favourite pastime – football.
“I’ve never in my life felt the urge to kick something,” she confesses, before adding that, “I’ve always thought baking soda solved more of the world’s problems than football”.
Based on Swedish columnist, blogger and writer Fredrik Backman’s 2014 novel of the same name, Britt-Marie Was Here shares the same bittersweet tone and deliciously dry, wry sense of humour as the 2015 adaptation of his A Man Called Ove.
As with that tale, this is a heartfelt and beautifully rendered portrayal of a three-quarter-life crisis, a charming and convincing character study brought to life by perfectly pitched pacing, well-crafted writing and a terrific performance from the actor playing the main protagonist.
Best known for her work in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and for portraying Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes I and II, August here imbues what could have been a one-dimensional character with depth, edges and an appealing narrative journey it’s hard not to be swept along by.
Yes, there are infatuated law enforcement officers, helpful shop owners and a cadre of cute moppets to corral, but Britt-Marie is not bland senior-baiting fare. Everything does not tie up in a neat bow and characters don’t always make the “right” choices (unlike any potential English-language “remake”), but that just makes this entertaining tale all the more enjoyable.
- James Croot, STUFF
Britt-Marie Was Here is now playing at Light House Petone and Cuba!
(In Swedish and German with English subtitles)