A very funny black comedy about modern family relations, Kjell Sundvall’s “In Bed With Santa” has already been a commercial and critical hit in Sweden. Foreign buyers should warm to its offbeat humor and un-p.c. approach to the subject of divorce and its myriad repercussions.
Action is set on Christmas Eve, when Sara (Katarina Ewerlof) has decided to play hostess to her three ex-husbands and their new families. Janne (Peter Haber), her current spouse, opposes the idea but eventually gives in. Suddenly, the house is filled with adults and kids, dreaming of one of those glorious fun-filled Christmases immortalized in “Fanny and Alexander.”
When the booze starts flowing, tensions grow: the individual families quarrel among themselves, and Janne grows more and more weary of hearing the other men referring to the fact they’ve had sex with his wife. When Sara announces during dinner that she’s pregnant, no one is more surprised than Janne; he had a vasectomy more than a year ago. As Janne wonders who the father is, events escalate, ending in mayhem and several more surprise announcements.
Helmer Sundvall is mostly known for thrillers (“The Hunters,” “The Last Contract”) but began his career making black comedies. His TV movie “Anyway, the Weather Was Fine” and TV series “Lorry,” both from the early ’80s, are regarded locally as modern classics.
“Santa” shows that he hasn’t lost his touch with the genre. The comedy is well paced and increasingly funny, and makes fun of almost everybody. The only character spared is one of the teenagers, Jeanette (Alexandra Dahlstrom, the blonde in “Fucking Amal,” aka “Show Me Love”), who has the task of commenting on the outrageous behavior of the adults.
Pic makes the point that this is how family life can develop in an age of quick and frequent divorces, with kids suddenly finding themselves with two or three different sets of parents and the latter put under increasing strain because of their tangled sexual past.
In a strong cast, the outstanding perf is from Dan Ekborg, a popular legit actor in Sweden, as one of Sara’s previous husbands. Thesp is excellent as a man who is conservative and cynical, always ready to knife someone with a vicious comment.
Despite being entirely shot in a studio, with the action set during a single evening, pic does not have a claustrophobic, stage-bound feel, thanks to its brisk pacing. Tech credits are all fine.