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Film Review

Let the Right One In

I never imagined a film about a vampire that would inspire me to do a review. But with Let the Right One In, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson has created a marvelous story of two lonely, unhappy outsiders, both 12 years old, who find companionship and acceptance with each other.  The story opens with a peculiar murder. Then we meet Oskar, a beautiful very pale skinned blonde boy, who lives with his divorced mother, and is being increasingly bullied at school. One evening, in the courtyard of his apartment building, he meets Eli, very pale with long black hair, who has appeared out of nowhere, and seems to be unaffected by the cold. And Oskar notices that she has a peculiar smell. When asked her age, she says that she has "been 12 for a long time".  Eli, with a much older man, has just moved into the apartment next to Oskar.  Gradually they become friends, and she advises him that he must fight back against his bullies at school.  One night, Eli appears at Oskar's window (on the third floor), and asks to be invited in. In a very touching scene, she comes in and lies in bed with Oskar, who asks her to "go steady".  Neither really understands what this means, but she says yes, and they snuggle up and fall asleep. The next morning she is gone and Oskar cannot understand how she left.

More murders happen and we see Oskar collecting news clippings about them.  Oskar has a dark side as well, thirsting for revenge for his bullying. And finally does strike back, with immediate success, but also with subsequent consequences. Later he goes to Eli's apartment, she lets him in, and asks if she is a vampire.  She says yes. And he accepts that as simply her condition. Although cautioned not to look, he peers in when she is getting dressed and sees something startling.  There is a background of life in the town, including a sad sub plot of a girl friend of one of the local drunks.  The story is set during the long Swedish winter, with short daylight hours, snow everywhere, and mostly silence.  The cinematography is outstanding, with lyric scenes of both the forest and town, and cold, muted colors.  But there is a constant sense of menace.  The music is sparse and muted, with the scenes supplying most of the tension. There is some graphic violence, but brief, and seems appropriate for the story. The director makes us understand, sympathize, and care about Oskar and Eli. I wouldn't call this a horror film as much as a very sensitive film about loneliness and companionship. And done well, understated, with excellent acting and direction. Playing at the Lumiere and very worth seeing in the theater.

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