When a tragic car accident claims the lives of a mother and her youngest son, the father, Lasse (Michael Nyqvist) and older brother Johan (Anastasios Soulis) are left to fight their grief alone. Lasse, in the grip of almost suicidal depression, is urged to take Johan to their summer house on an island off Stockholm, where the two continue to avoid even mentioning their lost loved ones. Neighbours and grandparents are supportive in sometimes disruptive, sometimes intimate ways, and Johan gets genuine, tender loving care from the local young woman, Helena (Moa Gammel). But it's up to each of them to put down their demons - if they can.
Review by Louise Keller:
Michael Nyqvist could have walked straight off the set of his smash hit As It Is In Heaven straight into the shoes of the damaged Lasse, who is burdened by the weight of guilt when his beloved wife and one of his two sons are killed in a car crash. The opening scenes tell us everything we need to know about this happy family, setting out on a car journey to visit the grandparents, and we are onside from the very beginning. It's a beautiful film that grips emotionally and never lets go. When Nyqvist cries, we cry. And we know exactly how he feels. Suddenly is a potent drama that tackles the subject of grief and turns it into a miracle of a film. With its central theme about father son relationships, director and screenwriter Johan Brisinger allows us to become participants in the troubled journey of Nyqvist's Lasse and Anastasios Soulis's 17 year old Jonas as each gradually comes to terms with the past events and their relationship.
When Lasse and Jonas board the ferry to take them to the island where their summer house and old memories wait, it is more of an escape than anything else. But there, in the tranquil and picturesque surroundings with its crystal clear waters, isolated beaches, distinctive rock formations, wild grass and flamboyant sunsets, they both find a pathway to salvation. Lasse finds comfort with the married Lotta (Catherine Hansson), with whom he clearly shares a past, and Jonas is brought out of himself by the exuberant, life-loving Helena (Moa Gammel, outstanding), who is without inhibitions. Their friendship is sealed when they meet at a secluded beach where she unselfconsciously swims topless. Emotions are harnessed and explored, while a dilapidated rowing boat's hull is scraped symbolically and an old piano makes music again.
Brisinger keeps our emotions in check by careful restraint, electing to allow us use our imagination rather than spelling everything out. Keep your tissues handy for the powerful and climactic confrontation between father and son when love, hate and blame fling poisonous arrows. This is a hard-hitting drama with whose characters we firmly connect. Nyqvist has oodles of appeal as he draws us into his emotional state with an invisible fishing line, inviting us on his journey.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Swedish arthouse cinema is alive and well, judging by Johan Brisinger's Suddenly, with its distinct heritage back to the grand old man of Swedish cinema, Ingmar Bergman in the use of landscape, in the structure of the relationship between characters and in its interest in the deeper stirrings of the soul.
Father and son films are always a pleasure, partly because there are few of them and partly because the subjects are always full of dramatic tension. This is no exception, and while the story itself is nothing new, the treatment and the way the relationship is resolved is involving and complex.
Michael Nyqvist, who has built a following in Australia with just one film - As It Is In Heaven - has that masculine appeal that transcends the macho stereotype, with pocky skin and weird, curly chest hair. Never mind, his inner beauty is marvellous and he has sex appeal for the thinking woman (which I am not). But he's also a terrific actor who handles quiet dramas like this with great verve. Of course the quiet is superficial, but he can also explode brilliantly.
The depth of Swedish acting talent has never been in question, and the young (Greek-named) Anastasios Soulis delivers a wonderful character as the tormented teenager who loses his mother and younger brother in the car accident. Brisinger handles trhe story with occasionally choppy story telling, or perhaps his editor insisted on inserting little interstitials between scenes, but generally the gradual build of emotional tension works well and the lovely island setting in the waters off Stockholm, is always refreshing.
The film's rich but subtle textures, the deliberate pace and the sparse yet glorious setting all combine to make this a truly satisfying film for the discerning cinephile.
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SWEDISH FILM FESTIVAL
CAST: Michael Nyqvist, Anastasios Soulis, Moa Gammel, Catherine Hansson, Philip Zanden, Sven Ljunggren, Anita Wall, Carl Ljunggren, Teresia Bjork
PRODUCER: Mikael Flodell
DIRECTOR: Johan Brisinger
SCRIPT: Johan Brisinger
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Henrik Stenberg
EDITOR: Stefan Walfridsson
MUSIC: Henrik Lorstad
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anna Paulson
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: September 18, 2008 at Orpheum & Cinema Paris; Melbourne: tba at Cinema Nova; Canberra: tba at Dendy (also releasing as part of Swedish Film Festival)