×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘Up in the Sky’

Swedish director Petter Lennstrand delivers an outrageously charming kids' yarn featuring puppets, rockets, and treasure made out of trash.

With:
Mira Forsell, Adam Lundgren, Guffe Funck, Petter Lennstrand, Shebly Niavarani, Ida Engvoll, Susanne Thorson, Eric Ericson. (Swedish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4992620/

There are kids movies that nod to the fact that there will be adults in the audience by including winky references that fly over younger heads, or peppering the dialogue with pop culture allusions, or operating on some ironic double level. And then there are others, the rarer and more precious, that simply make the watching adults feel like the children they once were, all over again.

Swedish TV puppeteer and first-time feature director Petter Lennstrand’s unfeasibly endearing “Up in the Sky” is of the latter variety: a simple story told with such genuine heart, offbeat humor and unfakeable innocence that it feels like rediscovering a foundational movie from your own past, even as you watch it for the first time. It seems extremely likely that in a few years’ time, the kids lucky enough to have “Up in the Sky” in their lives right now will consider it a beloved classic.

As a narrative, it’s slight, gently nonsensical, and a little too easily resolved, but fleshed out with surprisingly affecting emotional beats, all reflected in the sweet, solemn, sad eyes of its wonderful star, Mira Forsell. She plays Pottan, a lonely little girl whose casually neglectful working parents are too busy to take much notice of her, their inattention bordering on cruelty when they accidentally leave her at the gates of a municipal recycling center thinking it’s the pony camp she’s due to attend.

Glimpsed on CCTV sitting hopelessly on her suitcase in a downpour, Pottan is reluctantly taken in by two of the workers: Shady escaped convict Dennis Crowbar (Adam Lundgren) and Ture, a doleful-looking old man with a scratchy voice who gets around on a mobility scooter and is also a puppet. Neither Dennis nor Pottan remark on that fact, though, and so the “rules” of this little world are established elegantly: Some of the characters are puppets, some are humans, but all are really just people.

The kindly Ture brings Pottan to see their (puppet) boss Rydberg — a scene-stealer comic creation, part Jim Henson’s Animal, part officious Will Ferrell character, voiced by Lennstrand himself. Rydberg is a boisterous but big-hearted tinpot dictator who, after establishing that Pottan can’t drive a forklift (which is cool because they don’t have a forklift) has “no salary requirements” and isn’t “in a union,” hires her on the spot.

The only proviso is that she doesn’t snoop about in the off-limits area where some scheme in is progress. Needless to say, the enterprising Pottan finds out all about it, and soon is central to its progress, which will involve wild coincidences, space travel, lonely rocket scientists, astronaut training, a docking sequence to rival that of “Interstellar” (not really), and an impromptu party scene at which the puppet animals of the dump play electro music on scavenged instruments.

Unlike many kids films in which there’s a certain bumpiness in how we get from moment to moment, as though it’s OK to hurry through certain bits because the young viewers will be too undiscerning to notice, Lennstrand’s film is a delight right down to the granular level. The burgeoning friendship between Pottan and the ruffian Dennis is delicately drawn, and the calm, crisp formalism of the camerawork from DP Erik Molberg Hansen treats the details of location and set design with respect. Despite what was no doubt a low budget and an aesthetic that makes a virtue of the lo-fi, the ramshackle, the assembled-from-spare-parts, every moment of “Up in the Sky” feels cared for, and built to last.

The subtitling will of course be an issue for very young children, which is a shame because it really feels like a film that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. In fact, it may be the unusual case where one might advocate for a dubbed version: It is not overly wordy and the puppet characters could of course be re-voiced easily. It feels faintly sacrilegious, as the film’s off-kilter Swedishness is definitely part of its charm, but if it helps “Up in the Sky” reach the audience it deserves, maybe it’s something to consider, especially as it feels like no remake could ever really capture the same sincere sweetness summoned so effortlessly by this wistfully giddy one-off — lightning in a bottle rocket.

Berlin Film Review: 'Up in the Sky'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation Kplus), Feb. 19, 2017. Running time: 82 MIN. (Original title: "Upp i det blå")

Production: (Sweden) A Memfis Films presentation of a Memfis Films production, in co-production with Film Väst, Sveriges Television. (International sales: TrustNordisk Films, Hvidovre, Denmark). Producer: Lars Jönsson.

Crew: Director: Petter Lennstrand. Screenplay: Lennstrand, Martin Olczak. Camera (color): Erik Molberg Hansen. Editor: Kristin Grundström.

With: Mira Forsell, Adam Lundgren, Guffe Funck, Petter Lennstrand, Shebly Niavarani, Ida Engvoll, Susanne Thorson, Eric Ericson. (Swedish dialogue)

More Film

  • Mid 90s

    Jonah Hill's 'mid90s,' Pauline Kael Documentary to Screen in Berlin's Panorama Section

    Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, “mid90s,” about a 13-year-old skateboarder’s coming of age, and a documentary on influential film critic Pauline Kael are among the works that will screen in the Panorama section of the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. Films starring Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell and titles from countries including Israel, Brazil and Japan were [...]

  • 'Your Name' Director Makoto Shinkai Readies

    ‘Your Name' Director Makoto Shinkai Readies 'Weathering'

    Three years after the animation “Your Name” began its long triumphant reign over the Japanese and international box office, its director Makoto Shinkai has announced his next animated feature. Titled “Weathering With You,” the film will arrive in theaters in Japan on July 19 of next year, with Toho distributing. Set in a world where [...]

  • Berlin: The Match Factory Boards New

    Berlin: The Match Factory Boards Competition Titles From Fatih Akin, Emin Alper (EXCLUSIVE)

    German indie powerhouse The Match Factory will handle world sales on two Berlin Film Festival competition titles: German director Fatih Akin’s serial-killer chiller “The Golden Glove” and Turkish director Emin Alper’s family drama “A Tale of Three Sisters.”  Akin, a Hamburg native whose “Head-On” won the Golden Bear in 2004, is returning to the Berlinale [...]

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection Thirty-nine films from the legendary Swedish filmmaker are collected in [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and Condé Nast Entertainment. More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content