Abundant charm, fresh observations about love and family, and Maria Kvalheim’s exuberant performance could ingratiate “Frida–Straight From the Heart” with diverse audiences beyond the fest circuit. With tighter editing and trimming of 15 minutes, film has the potential to become an international hit akin to the popular Swedish comedy “My Life as a Dog.”
Almost every national cinema makes films about children and once in a while a classic emerges. The winning, poetic “Frida” is Norway’s latest contribution to the perennial coming-of-age genre.
Yarn’s point of departure is Erich Fromm’s book “The Art of Loving,” which Frida (Kvalheim) uses as her guide for relationships.
At 13, Frida is too bright and inquisitive for her own good. Pic astutely records her romantic tribulations and meddling with the love affairs of her mother, sister, neighbor and just about everyone she encounters.
Upset with her father, who left her mother and has now taken up with a black woman in the United States, she hangs up on him when he calls. But when it comes to her affairs of the heart, Frida is surprisingly pragmatic.
She has a chart on the wall with her boyfriends’ names and scores, which she updates daily. Frida explains matter-of-factly to Kristian, her neighbor/confidant: “Raymon I dream about, Andreas I long for, and Martin I see every day.”
Fresh, light and devoid of formulaic material, Torun Lian’s script is rich in one-liners, such as Frida telling Kristian, “Why did God give me everything and you nothing?” But scenario is not a random collection of loosely related sketches. Lian doesn’t opt for easy laughs and doesn’t glamorize Frida at the expense of the adults around her.
Pic captures the symbolic end to Frida’s childhood, the sudden moment of realization that she is not a girl anymore. Stamped with the spontaneity of children, film shows Frida’s vulnerability as well as unexpected toughness.
Herlad Paalgard’s mobile camera stays close to Frida; Kvalheim’s open face and infinite shadings reflect the transparency of the whole film.
Dominating every frame, Kvalheim sparkles, projecting verve and boundless energy, and carrying the film with the self-assurance of a pro.
Under Nesheim’s generous guidance, the whole cast rises to the occasion.
And there is something endearingly innocent about a precocious girl walking on the streets, talking to strangers, visiting an adult poet –the safe world of adolescence that has disappeared competely from American films.