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AS IT IS IN HEAVEN 2: HEAVEN ON EARTH

SYNOPSIS: Following the death of world renowned conductor Daniel DarŽus (Michael Nyqvist), the love of his life, the beautiful soprano, Lena (Frida Hallgren), is expecting his child. Lena's desire is to continue Daniel's legacy and bring joy through music to their village by forming a choir to perform Handel's Messiah at the opening of a new church. However, a number of people stand in her way of achieving her goal, but Lena is determined to fight their small-minded prejudice.

Review by Louise Keller:
Filled with the same passion that lifted the hearts of everyone who saw the original in 2004, this film feels more like a reunion than a sequel. Filmed 11 years later, but picking up the storyline where As It Is In Heaven left off, the strength of the film is its sense of place and authenticity in its setting of a small village in northern Sweden, as the characters manage the drama within the threads of their lives. While the story is slight, it is reassuring to be in their company again, with Frida Hallgren propelling the action as Lena, the passionate blonde dynamo with the generous smile and no-nonsense approach to life and music.

Filmmaker Kay Pollak (who has not made another film since the original) excels at capturing the drama of everyday life and here, the film begins with a rousing musical sequence, a snowstorm and a premature baby. The emphasis is on character as we become part of the close-knit community that lives and loves together. Stig the priest (Niklas Falk) relies on the alcohol he has tucked away in a little alcove: he feels worthless because his church is empty. Axel (Jakob Oftebro) is the handsome builder working on the church's renovations; he clearly has his eye set on Lena. Tore (Andre Sjoberg) is the instantly recognizable, good-natured simpleton with a heart of gold. Then there is Lena (Hallgren), who is moving on with her life following the death of Daniel Dareu (Michael Nyqvist), the world famous conductor who changed the world for the locals when he returned to his hometown in the first film. We cannot but help falling in love with Hellgren all over again - she is the life and soul of the film.

The plot involves Lena's quest to organise a performance of Handel's Halleluijah chorus using the questionable talents of the locals and encouraging them to have fun. Lampshades on heads, flashing bow ties and rousing rehearsals in which more emphasis is placed on zest for living than the music are par for the course, as the church becomes the pivot for the activity. Lena's baby features heavily and hats off to the filmmakers for discovering such a placid child, who does not seem to mind the shouting or being carried to music rehearsals, driven outside in the snow or placed in an old dinghy. There is never a dull moment and the film is a non-stop explosion of passion in which personal challenges are faced and conquered. It cannot hold a torch to the original, but it is enjoyable enough and an apt reminder to seek out the film that began it all in 2004.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A weak and clunky screenplay ruins the chances of this sequel being embraced with the same enthusiasm as the 2004 original, even though the two writers were also on the original writing team. The magic has gone, sad to say. Not only is the story rather thin, in what can be seen as attempt to beef it up, a selection of hyped up scenarios are plonked onto it. The essence of the story is newly widowed mother Lena (Frida Hallgren) intent on getting a choir together for a rousing performance of Handel's Messiah at the opening of a new church. It's the old 'let's put on a show' story, but with little genuine motivation and hardly any appeal.

The fiery confrontations are manufactured and a tragedy near the end of the film is a badly miscalculated attempt to stoke the fires of drama that are otherwise missing.

Lena's wish to have her child grow up in a more broadminded village is a decent enough premise, but it's just stated, not really demonstrated. Her raucous choir mastering alternates with a romantic subplot that is overworked and far too obviously manipulated, while the stated objective of the choir's performance hardly gets the kind of climactic treatment that warrants the effort.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN 2: HEAVEN ON EARTH (M)
(Sweden, 2015)

SΠock pΠjorden

CAST: Frida Hallgren, Niklas Falk, Lennart JŠhkel, Axelle Axell, AndrŽ Sjšberg, Lasse Petterson, Ylva Lššf, Mikael Rahm, Jakob Oftebro, Astrid Othelius, Eric Ericson, Thomas Hanzon, Bjšrn Granath, Bjšrn Bengtsson

PRODUCER: Anders Birkeland, Gšran Lindstršm

DIRECTOR: Kay Pollak

SCRIPT: Carin Pollak, Kay Pollak

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harald Paalgard

EDITOR: Thomas TŠng

MUSIC: Ale Mšller

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bengt Fršderberg

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 4, 2016







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