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NFF Review: Beyond

Director: Pernilla August

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Ola Rapace, Tehilla Blad

Running time: 89 mins

Plot: Leena reluctantly rushes to her mother’s deathbed, and attempts to come to terms and forgive her mother for the horrible childhood she was forced to endure. 

This critically-acclaimed film from Sweden is the incredible first feature by Swedish mega star-turned-director Pernilla August (best known internationally for playing Anakin Skywalker’s mother). August has co-written the film, loosely based on the novel ‘Svinalängorna’ by Susanna Alakoski. It debuted at the 67th Venice International Film Festival in 2010 and received the International Critic’s Week Award.

As Leena (Noomi Rapace) finds her way to her mother’s deathbed she deals with childhood memories which become more vivid the closer she gets to the home of her miserable childhood. August depicts a gripping and unapologetic story where nothing is off limits. We’re shown young children having to clean up their parents’ faeces, physical abuse, and a child who turns lethargic as a direct result of his parents’ downfall and self-destruction. For a movie that is no longer than 90 minutes, August accomplishes a very intricate and detailed story. Yes, there are questions over what happened to protagonist Leena between the age of 12 and when we meet her, as a 34 year old mother of two with a doting partner (played by Ola Rapace), but despite the long gap, a vivid picture is still drawn and every action and word in the film is fully justified.

With grand performances from everyone involved, especially Outi Mäenpää as Leena’s mother and Tehilla Blad as the young Leena, BEYOND keeps the viewer constantly on edge, similarl to how a horror film might by promising that something unpleasant is never too far away. BEYOND takes us through a heart-wrenching and intense journey of misery, forgiveness, hatred, and regret. Unfortunately, the story gets lost in translation, and the importance of August choosing to make this film bi-lingual film may be lost on anyone unfamiliar with either Swedish or Suomi. This also causes problems for people not acquainted with the struggles Finnish immigrants faced when trying to set up a life in Sweden – the characters are faced with segregation, class differences, poverty, feelings of inadequacy, and alcoholism.

August expects a lot from the viewer and never dumbs down the story. She appreciates the complex range of emotions and the audience will understand that nothing is as black and white. An apology is not always followed by forgiveness, nor is abuse always reciprocated with disdain. In 2010 BEYOND was Sweden’s official Academy Awards contribution but didn’t gain a nomination. Thanks to The Nordic Film Festival, Londoners had the opportunity to see the film, and if your heart can take it then make sure you don’t miss BEYOND.

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Isra has probably seen one too many movies and has serious issues with differentiating between reality and film - which is why her phone number starts with 555. She tries to be intellectual and claims to enjoy German and Swedish film, but in reality anything with a pretty boy in it will suffice.

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