A surprisingly well-made first feature, “The Ketchup Effect” is an ersatz Swedish version of U.S. indie hit “Thirteen,” with writer-helmer Teresa Fabik realistically depicting the hell of being young and trying to find your own identity. Positive reviews and word-of-mouth will make the film a hit with young Swedish auds, and foreign buyers looking for gritty teen movies should definitely give it a look.
Sofie (Amanda Renberg) is 12 years old. She and her close friends, Emma (Linn Persson) and Amanda (Ellen Fjaestad), are starting seventh grade in a new school. Excited but also a bit shy, Sofie approaches the trio of Mouse (Marcus Hasselborg), Jens (Bjorn Davidsson) and Sebbe (Filip Berg), regarded as the coolest gang in school, and manages to get an invitation to a party the following weekend.
There, Sofie rebuffs Sebbe’s sexual overtures but ends up in a series of sexually humiliating photos when she passes out from too much booze. Next day in school, Mouse and his friends start spreading the rumor Sofie is the school slut, and she’s cold-shouldered by Emma and Amanda.
Sofie’s father, Krister (Bjorn Kjellman), is a teacher at the school, and is sent copies of the photos. Now feeling totally alone, Sofie is contacted by Sebbe, who’s sorry about what happened and wants to make amends.
For many parents, “The Ketchup Effect” may seem like a horror film, but pic is also an eye-opener, with even the unsympathetic adults shown as basically well-meaning rather than villains. Fabik, who’s in her late 20s, comes across as a mature and assured director, telling the story with a combo of psychological insight and cinematic know-how. Dramatic scenes use a constantly moving handheld camera, while the more quiet ones are shot with steady, long takes.
Acting, by a young and mostly unknown cast, is uneven. The leading trio of girls is good, but a couple of the bullies are one-dimensional cliches. Kjellman, the best-known actor in the cast, is believable as the worried father.
Swedish title is a play on words, with “hora” meaning “whore.”