In the ambitious but flawed “When Darkness Falls,” writer-director Anders Nilsson attempts to break away from the cop genre. Three separate stories, linked by the theme of people who are threatened — by loved ones or by society, sometimes makes for a dramatic and tense picture, but not consistently so. Pic’s offshore future lies in the hands of distribs seeking quality drama.
Leyla (Oldoz Javidi) is a daughter in an immigrant family — from where is never specified — whose older sister, Nina (Bahar Pars), is branded a whore by her conservative father when she’s seen talking to a boy at school. Events quickly escalate, leading to their parents wanting Nina dead in order to save the family’s honor.
After Nina makes a futile attempt to escape, she’s taken by her parents and sister on a ride to Germany. There, in a motel by a freeway, they meet up with other members of the family, resulting in a scene of exceptional power.
Second tale features Carina (Lia Boysen, excellent), a celebrated TV journalist who’s secretly abused by her violent spouse, Hakan (Peter Engman). One day, she finally has Hakan arrested, but the only two people who support her action are her sister (Annika Hallin) and Hakan’s mother (Bibi Andersson), who was also the victim of an abusive husband. When Carina decides to become a spokesperson for battered wives, she meets stern resistance at work.
Third strand centers on nightclub owner Aram (Reuben Sallmander), whose doorman, Peter (Per Graffman), gets into an argument with three customers who later return with guns blazing. Aram is the only one who can identify the gang’s leader and agrees to testify in court. But when his life is threatened and one of his employees is beaten senseless, he has second thoughts.
Unlike Nilsson’s earlier pics (“Zero Tolerance,” “Executive Protection,” “The Third Wave”), “Darkness” is more drama than thriller, and has a much more lasting effect on the viewer. But there’s no overlap between the characters: The film simply cuts back and forth between the yarns.
Unfortunately, the stories are not equally interesting. The only one that really grabs is Leyla’s, which could easily have been a whole feature on its own. Acting quality varies in this strand, which uses some amateur players, but the basic power of the story survives.
Lenser Per Arne Svensson makes the Swedish autumn look dark and threatening, and his widescreen photography is an important ingredient in the settings of all three tales.