🇸🇪 Stockholm East 🇸🇪
(By Gina Meardon)
⚠️This review contains mild spoilers⚠️
Stockholm East (Stockholm Östra, 2011) is a Swedish drama, on Netflix internationally. 1hr 32 mins, not rated. Subtitled.
“Stockholm East is a moving and compelling love story between 2 strangers bound together by a tragedy that has taken its toll on both their lives and their relationships. When Johan (Persbrandt) and Anna (Iben Hjele) meet at the railway station connecting Stockholm to the suburbs where they live, they both embark on a dangerous journey of both passion and lies.
Mikael Persbrandt as Johan
Iben Hjele as Anna
Henrik Norlén as Anders
Liv Mjönes as Kattis
Lars-Erik Berenett as Kattis’ pappa
Anki Lidén as Kattis’ mamma
Annika Gallon as Minna’s mamma
Jimmy Lindström as Minna’s pappa
Moa Zetterlund as Minna
Director: Simon Kaijser
Cinematography: Per Källberg
Writer: Pernilla Oljelund
Editor: Simon Kaijser
Music: Leif Jordansson, Markus Bergkvist
Simon Kaijser directed 5 episodes of the series Before We Die (All4 Walter Presents UK) and the film Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Amazon Prime).
Pernilla Oljelund was a writer on Wallander 2005.
I have wanted to see this film for some time because… well it’s Mikael Persbrandt, and Liv Mjönes so when Netflix included it in their recent batch of Swedish acquisitions I was delighted. I have to say, though, I do not ‘do’ love stories and I would argue that this is definitely NOT a romantic love story if that is what you are looking for and expecting. Instead, it is a film about immeasurable loss (of the worse kind), tragedy, guilt, redemption, acceptance and finally new beginnings.
It is impossible to review Stockholm East without making it a mild spoiler review because events of the opening 5 to 10 minutes are the blueprint for the entire film and what happens is at the heart of every decision made. A terrible tragedy unfolds within the opening credits and we are immediately aware who the perpetrator is. A lapse of concentration whilst driving results in the death of a child, a much-loved daughter. Johan (Persbrandt) is responsible and he is inconsolable, riddled by guilt. In the space of a few hours, the lives of 4 people and their families are torn apart. Each individual has to come to terms with what has happened in their own way.
What is important to say here is that Johan is held accountable in court. Anna, the child’s mother, cannot bear to go and see the man who, accidentally, killed her daughter, but her husband Anders does. The mysteries of Swedish law mean Johan is held culpable but walks free from court, and is still free to drive. Whilst Anna withdraws into herself into a world of make-believe where her daughter is not dead, Anders tries to move on, even considering replacing their daughter with another child and their relationship becomes strained.
Johan’s partner Kattis desperately wants a child of her own but Johan is consumed by the image he saw whilst waiting for news of the little girl in the hospital. Anna walking disconsolately along the corridor clutching her daughter’s clothing. Most rational thinking people would maybe seek counselling or talk about the guilt consuming them, but Johan seeks another path. He takes to driving to Anna and Anders house and watching from afar, an unhealthy obsession until one day a chance encounter on the platform of the train station opens up an opportunity that he seizes with both hands.
While Johan is desperate to make amends and is able to befriend Anna by returning the Filofax she left by mistake on the train, for Anna her coping mechanism is to talk about her daughter to him in the present tense. Thus slowly and inevitably two lost, unhappy people are pulled together and a simple friendship forms, already though based on lies, because Johan knows full well he is responsible for Anna’s grief and that she is pretending her daughter is still alive because she cannot accept that she is gone. As the friendship deepens Anna becomes more and more reliant on him and happier in his company than that of her husband.
At times I felt very uncomfortable watching this relationship develop. I kept thinking “this can’t end well! She will find out if you don’t tell her soon!”. It is extremely well-written by Pernilla Oljelund telling the story with such understanding and cleverly the focus is on Johan’s mental health because ultimately it is Anna who proves the stronger of the two.
This story developed in a way I did not expect. I am not sure if many people would have made the decisions taken but ultimately the film, like the seasons, went from the dark into the light and rebirth.
The acting is sublime, beautifully understated, and more is conveyed with quiet grace and shared silence than with screaming arguments or fits of rage. Persbrandt throws away the arrogance and confidence of Beck’s Grunvald and plays Johan stripped bare. His sorrow is profound and that inevitable moment when his identity is discovered is truly upsetting for all concerned. I won’t lie, my eyes were wet.
Iben as Anna is exceptional and she and Mikael are totally believable in their roles. I’m not going to say how the relationship develops or how the film ends, there is still a lot of story to tell and you won’t be disappointed. I was completely absorbed and for someone who ‘doesn’t do romantic films’ I was completely engrossed in these 2 characters.
I loved the film and can wholeheartedly recommend it. You may need tissues, mind.
Iben Hjejle won the Best Actress Award at the Bratislava International Film Festival, 2011 with Simon Kaijser nominated for the Grand Prix.
The film also received 4 Guldbagge Award nominations in 2012.
Official Trailer English subtitles:
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