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Miffo

A comedy about the unlikely romance between a stiff, upper-class minister and a vulgar, wheelchair-bound, working-class girl, "Miffo" turns around the usual cliches of the genre and comes up with a result both charming and endearing. Pic looks set to become a major B.O. hit in Sweden. Remake potential is also strong.

With:
With: Jonas Karlsson, Livia Millhagen, Ingvar Hirdwall, Iso Aouifia, Robin Keller, Fyr Thorvald Stromberg, Liv Mjones, Kajsa Ernst.

A comedy about the unlikely romance between a stiff, upper-class minister and a vulgar, wheelchair-bound, working-class girl, “Miffo” turns around the usual cliches of the genre and comes up with a result both charming and endearing. Pic looks set to become a major B.O. hit in Sweden, and its subsequent exposure in competition at the upcoming Montreal fest is likely to secure it offshore theatrical slots. Remake potential is also strong.

Main character is 29-year-old Tobias (the always excellent Jonas Karlsson) who’s had a sheltered upbringing in a bourgeois home in a Swedish city. He now rents a room from his former g.f., Jenny (Liv Mjones). Against his parents’ wishes, Tobias has studied to become a minister. However, he isn’t satisfied with the work he’s doing in his big city parish and applies for a job in a run-down area.Cut to the flat of Carola (newcomer Livia Millhagen, in a career-making perf) and her alcoholic mother, Sonja (Kajsa Ernst). Carola is confined to a wheelchair and Sonja is unemployed. They live on welfare checks.

After Tobias goes to their run-down neighborhood, he meets Carola, who first borrows money from him and then invites him to dinner. Tobias has never met anyone who’s so talkative, vulgar, charming and full of life. He later drinks with Carola and her mother and Sonja’s boyfriend, and afterward dreams that Carola can walk and that they kiss.

As this is a romantic comedy, the question of whether true love will prevail isn’t hard to answer. But the helming-writing team of Daniel and Malin Lind-Lagerlof — who previously made the successful comedies “Breaking Out” and “Making Babies,” both set against more or less dark backgrounds — play against the expected cliches, even subtly sending them up.

Pic is set in an unnamed city, but was mainly shot on Sweden’s west coast (in places, obviously Gothenburg). Director Daniel Lind-Lagerlof uses many different styles to move the story forward, sometimes allowing his actors to express themselves in long takes, sometimes using jump-cuts in a scene (and once even speeding up the action). In several scenes, the camera is positioned vertically above what’s happening. Given that much of the film is set in churches, this could be read as a playful way of hinting that God is looking down on humans trying to find love and happiness.

Performances are top-drawer all round, with thesps etching believable characters. Pic’s real find is Millhagen, a legit actress in her first film role, who makes Carola one of the most charming and vigorous women seen in a Swedish film for a long time.

Title is a kind description for someone who’s a bit strange.

Miffo

Sweden

Production: A Sonet Film release of a Hagring, Sonet Film production, in association with Film i Vast and SVT Fiktion. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Copenhagen.) Produced by Daniel Lind-Lagerlof. Executive producer, Peter Possne. Directed by Daniel Lind-Lagerlof. Screenplay, Malin Lind-Lagerlof.

Crew: Camera (color), Olof Johnson; editor, Anders Nylander; music, Paul Bothen; art director, Lene Willumsen; costume designer, Ulrika Sjoo; sound (DTS Digital), Anders Billing. Reviewed at Saga, Stockholm, July 31, 2003. (Also in Montreal Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: With: Jonas Karlsson, Livia Millhagen, Ingvar Hirdwall, Iso Aouifia, Robin Keller, Fyr Thorvald Stromberg, Liv Mjones, Kajsa Ernst.

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