A moving drama about loss and possible consolation set on an island during one summer, “Suddenly” hooks the viewer from start to finish. In a year that saw plenty of new Swedish films but few of real quality, this assured feature debut by writer-director Johan Brisinger, which opened Dec. 25, closed 2006 on an encouraging note. Excellent reviews will make the low-key pic a respectable hit locally; offshore, pic should attract the interest of a major fest as a launchpad.
Lasse (Michael Nyqvist) is happily married with two kids. When his wife and youngest son are killed in a car crash, Lasse mourns his loss by staying at home in bed while his teenage son, Jonas (Anastasios Soulis), tries to make his father get a grip.
After Lasse attempts suicide, Jonas’ grandparents (Sten Ljunggren, Anita Wall) try to get custody of the boy. But Lasse refuses, and takes Jonas to spend the summer at his house in the Gothenburg archipelago.
On the island, Lasse and Jonas meet new and old friends. The most important is Helena (Moa Gammel), a free-spirited teen who’s not shy about bathing topless in front of Jonas. Lasse, meanwhile, spends time with neighbors Simon (Philip Zanden) and Lotta (Catherine Hansson), who’s clearly drawn to the grieving widower.
Jonas’ grandparents visit during the annual midsummer celebration, which ends in disaster when Lasse drinks way too much. The elderly couple try again to convince Jonas to come and live with them, and before the summer is over both father and son realize that life must go on.
Brisinger takes a very subtle approach to the emotions involved, smartly directing Nyqvist and Soulis to convey the pain of loss through subdued perfs. Nyqvist (“As It Is in Heaven”) is especially good, showing what a skilled thesp can do with small means, while Soulis, who previously played opposite Nyqvist in the violent family drama “Home Sour Home,” holds his own against the older thesp. As Jonas’ love interest, newcomer Gammel is a revelation.
Henrik Stenberg’s camera moves slowly between different locations and events on the island, never intruding too much on what’s happening. Pic also avoids the trap of making the Swedish archipelago look like a tourist brochure.