Legit director Maria Blom makes a mature, assured debut as a filmmaker with dark comedy “Dalecarlians,” an ensembler set during a family birthday party. Turning the cliche of people unburdening themselves emotionally during a drink-fueled get-together on its head, Blom makes the film both funny and disturbingly tragic. Pic opened locally Dec. 17 to positive reviews and strong business; fest exposure should ensure that foreign buyers open their eyes to this little gem.
Dalarna, a county north of Stockholm, is famous for its landscape and is a popular tourist destination. The residents are called Dalecarlians. Stubborn and self-centered, they consider their county the heart of Sweden.
Mia (Sofia Helin), the youngest of three sisters, moved away from Dalarna 15 years ago and has turned into a fast-living Stockholm single. However, her father, Calle (Willie Andreasson), is turning 70, so Mia reluctantly drives back to her hometown to take part in the celebration.
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Mia’s eldest sister Eivor (Kajsa Ernst) is married with children. She has a big heart but the years have made her cynical. The other sister, Gunilla (Ann Petren), is recently divorced; she’s just back from a trip to Bali and can’t stop talking about the great sex she had there.
The sisters’ mother Anna (Inga Alenius) is always a little too eager to help and ends up causing trouble.
When Mia arrives, father Calle announces he is willing a nearby piece of land to her. When Calle’s birthday party finally starts, anger and jealousy, fueled by booze, rise to the surface. By the following morning, lives have been changed forever.
Blom makes the oft-used device of an “outsider” returning home her own. The writer-director invites the viewer to expect all the usual cliches and then pulls the rug out. A seemingly predictable story turns darker and darker in its humor.
Aided by excellent work from d.p. Peter Mokrosinski, film paints a portrait of Dalarna that is realistic and beautiful, without becoming a tourist brochure.
Acting is fine down the line. As Mia, Helin, who made a weak debut in “The Robbers,”proves a fine actress here, as she did in last year’s epic black comedy “Four Shades of Brown.”
Petren and Ernst make believable and likable characters of the initially unsympathetic sisters.
Memfis producer Lars Jonsson discovered Blom’s potential early on and encouraged her to direct shorts to learn the ropes. “Dalecarlians” proves his faith was well founded.