Saturday, October 2, 2010

A movie review: Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In (2010)

Director - Matt Reeves
115 Min; R
Owen - Kodi Smith-Mcphee
Abby - Chloe Moretz
The Father - Richard Jenkins

Let Me In is a rare re-make of a film that is barely 2 years old. We are used to a remake coming out after a generation has passed and the movie industry feels that a new audience will embrace a film that is faithful to the original but with differences. The most recent example would be the new Karate Kid movie, in which a child of a different race in a different setting is trained by a master of a different profession, yet the premise of the movie is still the same as the original Karate Kid we all now. The main difference with this remake is that the original, Låt den rätte komma in (2008) aka "Let the Right One In", is a Swedish film which was shown in the United States with subtitles. The film was a critical success but not so much of a box office boom in the US. Someone realized that the wonderful original (my review is listed in full at the end of this piece) warranted a wider audience. It is unfortunate that so many pass on movies with subtitles but it is no doubt a fact that many do. And so, just a few years after the original, we have an American remake.

Unlike some other remakes you may be familiar with, this film attempts to stay very close to the tone, theme and setting of the original. Instead of a cold and snowy Swedish setting we have a cold and snowy setting in Los Alamos, NM. The names of the main characters have changed but the premise of a young teenage boy leading a bullied and unloved life is still the main focus. When a seemingly young girl, Abby, and her 'father' move into his apartment complex Owen, a shy and sad boy, attempts to befriend her. She tells him that she cannot be his friend. That is kind of strange. And thus the movie unfolds with the reasons for that statement. As with the original this film introduces us to what the world would be like for a vampire living in our world, trying to survive without bringing attention to itself. Abby looks like a little girl, but she is not a she and she 'has been twelve for a very long time.'

There are definite differences from the original but the director did a very good job of capturing the overall sadness and despair, and Richard Jenkins as 'The Father' puts a nice spin on the role of a protector who is nearing the end of his ability or want to perform his duties to Abby. The symbiotic relationship between a vulnerable young boy looking for some type of love and a young looking vampire girl who needs help procuring life-sustaining blood is actually quite beautiful. The original does a better job at conveying all of this, but the remake receives a full passing grade from me (though I simply cannot say enough that you should see the original first.)

**** out of 5

Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
aka "Let the Right One In"

Director - Tomas Alfredson
Oskar - Kåre Hedebrant
Eli - Lina Leandersson

Let me say that this film is wonderful. It is dark and brooding and self-reflective, but not in a pompous way. Nor is it characteristic of what you might expect from a film with a plot centering on the lives of two children, each experiencing the torments of adolescence, though from, relatively speaking, views which are worlds and worlds apart.

It is a fairly common theme in movies to take the coming-of-age emotions of love and isolation and wanting and feelings of inadequacy and being needed, and to cram them into a box of 90 minutes and spit out the other side a formulaic tale of boy meets girl and goes to the dance. What director Tomas Alfredson has done is to take all those emotions and squeeze every bit of realism out of Oskar and Eli, a 12 year old boy and girl respectively played by Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, and make we the viewers feel genuine sympathy for their situations. Each suffers as children often do who are in difficult home-life situations, and each struggles to find their self-identity. What they find in friendship is a comfort to one another they have never known.Were I to stop writing at this point I’m not sure if you would want to see the film or not, but I guess I have left out an important plot component: Eli is a vampire. She tells Oskar she has been “About 12 years old for a very long time” and, judging by the lack of pigmentation and deep, dark circles surrounding her haunting eyes, we have no reason not to believe what she says. Oskar, bullied at school and a member of a family that does not really care for him, is able to see past this admitted flaw and the two begin a symbiotic relationship built on the trust that each has angst the other can and cannot understand.

I loved the storyline for this film. I was enamored by the sweeping scenes of snow-covered grounds and icy ponds and dark, dripping blood from time to time. Two more qualified actors would have been hard to find to portray such dense subject matter for the age group, and though it takes a leap of faith to believe in the topic, it does not take any such leap to believe in the acting abilities of these children.

The entire base of the film is rooted in mystical realism that I find fascinating, and I am surprised and a bit saddened that the film has not received more of a response in the USA. I believe an American re-make is in the works and I cringe at the thought of such a beautifully told tale (in subtitles if that matters to you) might be butchered. See this film and enjoy it as the piece of art for which it will most certainly be remembered.

***** out of 5

1 comment:

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