More apt to be appreciated by adults than by kids, “The Girl” offers a haunting, poetic portrait of childhood solitude that brings to mind resonant mood pieces such as Lynne Ramsay’s “Ratcatcher” and Dorota Kedzierzawska’s “The Crows.” Beautifully crafted feature debut by Swedish helmer Fredrik Edfeldt received special mentions from both the Berlinale first-feature and Generation Kplus juries. It’s a cinch for fests and new-talent showcases, with smallscreen playoff to follow.
Set in the early 1980s, during a rural Swedish summer, the pic excels at depicting the private realms kids stealthily create when free of adult supervision. It also shows the grownup world solely from the p.o.v. of its young protagonist.
Not quite 10, the eponymous heroine (Blanca Engstrom) is a solemn, ginger-haired, freckle-faced waif who is never called by name. Told by her parents that she’s “too little” to accompany them on their trip to Africa, the girl finds a way to get rid of her feckless aunt (Tova Magnusson-Norling) and take care of herself.
The girl is a loner and a dreamer, observing far more than she understands. She’s repelled by the fleshiness, physical desires and vices she views in the adult domain. Nor does she like the talk of boyfriends and sex indulged in by her plump, slightly older neighbor Tina (Emma Wigfelt). Most at ease with neighborhood outcast Ola (Vidar Fors), although still capable of him betraying him, the girl confides her secrets as they explore the forest and hayloft.
Working from a sensitive, strongly visual script by Karin Arrhenius, helmer Edfeldt proves a dab hand at wordless storytelling. He elicits subtle performances from his adult supporting characters, who manage to suggest a backstory with actions rather than dialogue.
The child thesps, too, are remarkably natural and nuanced, none moreso than the extremely photogenic Engstrom, who ably carries the entire movie on her thin shoulders.
Painterly widescreen lensing from Hoyte van Hoytema (“Let the Right One In”), alternating extreme closeups with lyrical shots of the countryside, leads the sharp tech package. For the record, the pic marks the first feature production from Acne, a multidisciplinary collective that produces cutting-edge advertisements as well as a popular brand of jeans.