You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Certain People

Film acerbically observes a group of bourgeois thirtysomethings who gather for a birthday meal in the countryside.

With: Mia Mountain, Ludde Hagberg, Anitha Schulman, Aron Flam, Lisa Ostberg, Ulrika Ellemark, Fredrik Lundqvist, Yohanna Idha.

More than making up for its lack of originality with a breathtaking virtuosity of execution, delightful Swedish tragicomedy “Certain People” acerbically observes a group of bourgeois thirtysomethings with self-appointed hipster cred who gather for a birthday meal in the countryside. Though a tad long, this tonally razor-sharp debut by helmer Levan Akin, who co-wrote the screenplay with ace thesp Lisa Ostberg, oozes authenticity and filmmaking savoir-faire, making it something of a mystery that it preemed at Stockholm and Tribeca rather than an A-list festival like Berlin or Cannes. Hilarious navel-gazer should attract arthouse eyeballs in the very demo it lampoons.

Katinka (Mia Mountain) and her overly sensitive hubby, Greger (Ludde Hagberg), have invited some friends to their idyllically situated summer house for Katinka’s birthday. The gathering includes confident gallery owner David (Aron Flam) and his pregnant wife, the quiet-seeming Anna (Anitha Schulman); insecure documaker-turned-sculptor Carro (Ulrika Ellemark); and sharp-tongued Jossan (Ostberg), who recently released a single even though she doesn’t aspire to be a singer.

It’s clear from the get-go that the shindig will be closer to a meeting of Neurotics Anonymous than a successful dinner party — and that’s before the unexpected arrival of Katinka’s unreliable twin brother, Joel (Fredrik Lundqvist), and his new g.f., Linda (Yohanna Idha), a blonde bombshell whose innate vapidity is perfect for her job as a TV gameshow host.

Divided into chapters (“Entrees,” “Dessert,” “Drinks” … ), the pic just barely establishes the image these privileged folk have of themselves as bohemian free spirits before Akin starts to peel away the layers of courtesy and decorum. Linda tests everyone’s patience with her commoner behavior — mixing red and white wine to make her own rose is the least of her faux pas — and abundant alcohol lowers everyone’s inhibitions and capacity to put up with accusations and lies.

What makes “Certain People” stand out is its confidence of tone, which allows auds to observe these egocentric characters without condescension or self-pity, as well as to laugh at their slightly surreal yet always very human behavior — a tricky balance Akin maintains until the somewhat protracted closing scenes.

The rookie helmer, a vet of Swedish TV, uses all the cinematic tools at his disposal to generate laughs and character insight, often simultaneously. In lieu of reaction shots, the camera frequently lingers on whomever has just said something unbecoming, making the dialogue not about the reactions of those spoken to (as in traditional comedies) but about the intentions of the speakers and the effect their verbal missives have on themselves. This is entirely appropriate for a film about well-educated, self-obsessed people with a habit of assigning blame to others, even though, deep down, they’re aware where the fault lies.

Editing is employed to insightful effect, with continuity and ellipses occasionally reflecting emotional states rather than objective logic. Visual punchlines are achieved through snappy cutting, such as in a shot/reverse shot sequence in which Jossan’s silent obsession with cakes in the background is more telling (and mirthful) than anything the two characters loudly arguing in the foreground have to say.

Acting is uniformly strong, though newcomer Ellemark deserves special mention as Carro, who, with her Louise Brooks ‘do, black-rimmed glasses and bright red lipstick, not only looks but also completely nails the part of a woman so afraid to commit and fail that she’ll half-heartedly try just about anything.

Linus Rosenqvist’s widescreen lensing bathes the countryside in lush greens, golden yellows and bright whites before the onset of darkness, while the jazzy score, heavy on percussion, adds another layer of surface respectability. Akin’s Georgian origins are nicely saluted in a hilarious toasting ceremony; Swedish title literally means “Katinka’s Party.”

Certain People


Production: A Folkets Bio release of a Filmkance Intl. presentation and production, in association with Rixmixningsverket, Dagsljus, Europa Sound, Mekaniken, Slutfas, Samarbetets Vanner. Produced by Erika Stark. Executive producer, Lars Blomgren. Directed by Levan Akin. Screenplay, Akin, Lisa Ostberg.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Linus Rosenqvist; editors, Johanna Perhult, Gustav Wachtmeister; music, Fredrik Emilson; production designer, Erika Stark; costume designer, Linn Eklund; sound, Ljudbang AB; assistant director, Victoria Svanell. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Viewpoints), April 24, 2012. Running time: 102 MIN.

Cast: With: Mia Mountain, Ludde Hagberg, Anitha Schulman, Aron Flam, Lisa Ostberg, Ulrika Ellemark, Fredrik Lundqvist, Yohanna Idha.

More Scene

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album Review: Mike Posner's [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content