This review was updated on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
A deeply felt story about how even those who seem to be successful can feel lonely and vulnerable, “Sandor Slash Ida” is the best Swedish youth pic since Lukas Moodysson’s “Fucking Amal” (aka “Show Me Love”). By turns funny, tragic and romantic, and with two appealing leads, this assured first feature by helmer Henrik Georgsson should score locally with both teenagers and adults in wake of Feb. 4 release, especially given the success of the original novel by Sara Kadefors (Georgsson’s wife), who also scripted. Pic’s offshore future should be helped by festival platforming.
An attractive young woman who uses her looks to get ahead, Ida (Aliette Opheim) lives in Stockholm with her mother (Lia Boysen). Ida appears to have everything her friends want, but beneath the mask she’s insecure. Mom is a depressive who can’t hold down a job and spends most days either in bed or in front of the TV. At night, Ida sits at her computer, sending the message, “Is there anyone out there who feels as lonely as I do?”
Well, there is, and his name is Sandor (Andrej Lunusjkin), who lives in Gothenburg with his parents and brother. They’re all immigrants, and Sandor’s mom (Svetlana Rodina-Ljungkvist), who was once a ballet dancer, wants him to become the star she never was. She pushes Sandor to train hard but, even though he likes ballet, he feels he’s being forced, and would rather make his own decisions.
At school, Sandor is bullied and dubbed gay. When he and Ida find each other’s cries for help on the Internet, the two start an email friendship. Initially, they fabricate stories, with the sexually experienced Ida telling Sandor how innocent she is and Sandor, who’s still a virgin, inventing a g.f. he’s slept with.
When his family visits Stockholm, Sandor looks Ida up; but their first meeting goes badly. However, they still long for one another and, when Sandor is to dance in a ballet at the Gothenburg Opera House, Ida decides to pay him a surprise visit.
Kadefors wrote “Sandor Slash Ida” as a TV series and, when it was turned down, she rewrote it as a novel, winning the prestigious August Award. In Sweden alone, it’s sold more than 100,000 copies, and has been translated into seven languages. Kadefor’s movie script eliminates a lot of subplots, and concentrates on the two main characters, with their parents — shown as victims of circumstance, more misunderstood than bad — reflected through the two leads.
Helmer Georgsson takes the problems and lives of these two young people seriously, with no use of humor as a palliative. But by the end, the viewer is rooting for the young lonely hearts to finally get together.
Both newcomers, Opheim and Lunusjkin bring a kind of edgy nervousness to their roles that serves the film well. As Ida, Opheim is a true find, combining looks with surprising thesping ability; as Sandor, Lunusjkin is that rare thing, a classical ballet dancer who can also act.
Visually, pic goes in the opposite direction to most Swedish youth pics, with cinematographer Anders Bohman shooting in 35mm and widescreen, filling each scene with atmosphere. Because of its subject, “Sandor Slash Ida” may end up in fests focused on youth pics, but it deserves a wider arena than that.