A slice-of-life drama centered on a thirtysomething singleton looking for love, “Nina Frisk” looks unlikely to repeat the boffo business of writer-director Maria Blom’s debut feature, “Dalecarlians,” which pulled in more than 800,000 admissions in Sweden alone. But pic is still a well-made, darkly humorous look at families and relations in contempo Sweden. Aided by positive reviews, film opened to brisk B.O. March 9, and could appeal to territories that warmed to her first outing.
Air hostess Nina (Sofia Helin, the lead in “Dalecarlians”) is all smiles, and enjoys flying and having an occasional affair with married colleagues. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, behind her smiling face, Nina longs for a family.
Her own is hardly worth emulating: Brother Linus (Sven Ahlstrom) lives in a posh suburb with kids and a demanding, socially aware wife (Mia Poppe). Nina and Linus’ mother, Jill (Gunilla Nyroos), clings to her adult children, almost terrorizing them with phone calls and demands, and lives with Krister (Urban Eldh), an unemployed alcoholic.
Things change when Nina meets Marcus (Daniel Gotschenhjelm, Helin’s real-life partner), a widower with a young son. Almost reluctantly, they fall in love. But the ghost of Marcus’ dead wife stands between them, and even the most loving of relationships would be endangered by Nina’s dysfunctional family.
“Nina Frisk” is one of those pictures where a lot of things happen to the protags but nothing is really resolved. By lights up, the characters may have learned things about themselves, but life still goes on as it did before — unlike the more emotionally involving “Dalecarlians,” where the characters were forced to make important decisions.
What makes pic worthwhile are the fine performances. Helin is becoming one of Sweden’s most reliable character actors, with a face that can be both revealing and emotionally closed. Nyroos is equally good as Nina’s mother, talking in an irritating, high-pitched voice, and with the appearance of someone who means well but alienates herself from the people she loves.
In recent years, several Swedish filmmakers have tried to show less familiar parts of Stockholm: Here, Blom explores the new, highly priced condo districts on the outskirts of the city. She also makes efficient use of repeated helicopter shots, with the camera gliding silently over summertime Stockholm. Other credits are equally fine.