Dark and tragic but with a glimmer of hope at the end, Bjorn Runge’s grim family drama “Mouth to Mouth” will turn off general auds, but should score among the arthouse and festival crowd. With drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, child abuse and incest, pic sounds like a parody of a contempo drama. But thanks to an excellent cast, it becomes instead a moving story of people trying to make the best of their lives when they’re given a second chance. Runge’s previous drama, “Daybreak,” won two major awards at the Berlin fest two years ago.
About to turn 18, Vera (Sofia Westberg) ran away from home after being hit by her alcoholic father, Mats (Peter Andersson). One year later, she’s been living in a rundown apartment with Morgan (Magnus Krepper), a criminal who prostitutes her to feed his heroin habit.
Ever since Vera left, her mother, Eva (Marie Richardson), has been devastated and her two younger kids (Anton Jarlos Gry, Liv Omsen), try to cope. The only positive thing is that Mats has quit drinking.
Mats and Eva both borrow money from their parents, knowing that if they can make Vera come home, it’s going to cost a lot of money to put her in rehab.
Mats starts following Morgan and Vera, but when he tries to talk to his daughter at a restaurant, he’s knocked down. Back at Morgan’s apartment, Vera is forced to take heroin and has a hallucination about her family. In a memorable sequence, she sees all of them all from above, her mind slowly floating.
Mats grabs Vera at a supermarket and locks her in a basement room at home. When Morgan comes looking for her, the stage is set for a finale that will offer some hope of redemption and reconciliation for the tormented family.
Basic theme is that what adults do to their children can echo through generations. Even Morgan’s behavior is in some way linked to his childhood, and when adults lie and hurt their children, they have to pay the price later on. The desperate Mats is given a second chance to heal the wounds he caused.
Lenser Anders Bohman lets the darkness creep into the widescreen visuals: in interiors, the background is often simply black, and pic’s long takes, frequently in close-up, also help to position the audience inside the characters’ anguish.
Name cast — many of whom were in Runge’s “Daybreak” — is excellent. As Vera’s parents, Richardson and Andersson convincingly display a mixture of torment and shared guilt, while Krepper, as Morgan, humanizes a potentially cardboard villain. Westberg holds her own, portraying Vera as a teen with a hard surface but with a child underneath.