“Britt-Marie” (Pernilla August) likes to clean, tidy up, cook and make everything nice. Lists help in this endeavour, nothing forgotten, everything crossed off, neat and tidy.
This works very well for her husband of forty years “Kent” (Peter Haber), the daily routine neatly captured in a short montage, with suitable sound effects. That is until circumstances force Britt-Marie to place both rings neatly, carefully on the dining room table.
Left staring forlornly at the indentation her wedding and engagement ring created on her finger, facing an uncertain future alone.
The local job centre is not overflowing with positions for a 63 year old lady with a skill set centered on using baking soda, to remove strange odours from her husband’s shirts.
There is one job available, a Youth worker in a tiny hamlet called “Borg”, coaching ten year olds to play football at a recreation centre due to be closed.
A rude awakening awaits, with nowhere to stay Britt-Marie stares at the town plan, consisting of run down buildings and a road running through. Taking one day at a time as her bedrock mantra, Britt-Marie commences a new chapter in her life, far outside her humdrum comfort zone.
Challenges abound and the film does not stint on a realistic portrayal of the pain and hurt her character will endure. However, a chance for a new beginning into a life she had literally swept away, many years before.
Stripped of any artifice, this emotional arc would challenge many actresses but August carries this off with ease, every challenge written on her face. At times wearing every year of her life to date but as gentle green shoots of confidence, belonging and acknowledgement seep through, her face transforms to show the person hiding within.
The film has a diverse cast rounding out the children’s roles, no Hollywood moppets here. Despite being largely unknown the kids are fine, most notably “Vega” (Stella Oyoko Bengtsson), a character giving more than she receives.
A gentle nuanced performance from Anders Mossling as the local police officer “Sven”, together with the ebullient local fix-it man, enables the film to balance the challenges with the natural humour.
Whilst not detracting, the created drama towards the conclusion appears tacked on, with “Fredrik” (Olle Sarri) more of a caricature against the more natural performances.
A small intimate movie that nudges the heartstrings rather than plucks but is all the more effective for a low key Scandi approach. At times deeply affecting, echoing many of our fundamental desires just to be noticed, be seen and to matter.
The Swedish clipped, terse dialogue encapsulated in the subtitles, provides plenty of time to watch the facial expressions of the actors, especially August, who is a joy to watch throughout.
The film is based on the novel by Fredrik Backman best known for his book “A Man Called Ove”.
A well acted film sketching a feel good yet realistic life journey, with a well conceived final act, sure to be modified in any big budget remake.