Home > Reviews > REVIEW: Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)

REVIEW: Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)

Let the Right One InDirected by: Tomas Alfredson
Produced by: Carl Molinder, John Nordling
Screenplay by: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Edited by: Tomas Alfredson, Daniel Jonsäter
Cinematography by: Hoyte van Hoytema
Music by: Johan Söderqvist
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, Peter Carlberg, Karin Bergquist, Mikael Rahm, Henrik Dahl, Patrik Rydmark, Rasmus Luthander, Mikael Erhardsson, Johan Sömnes, Elif Ceylan (voice)
Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Year: 2008

 

Movies about troubled youths and movies about vampires are pretty easy to come by, but mix the two together, and you’re more often than not going to end up with something that draws more comparisons to Twilight than an actual horror film. Back in 2008, however, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson partnered up with author John Ajvide Lindqvist to adapt Lindqvist’s acclaimed novel Låt den rätte komma in into a film that managed to shed any pretenses of sexy romanticism and juicy interpersonal drama and maintained a level of maturity and somber, dreadful sorrow that’s far more appropriate to both subgenres of storytelling – this, despite the fact that the film’s protagonists were far younger than either one of Twilight’s glittering nitwits.

Let the Right One In - Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

Let the Right One In, as it was called in English-speaking markets, has itself gone on to become a cult classic and was even popular enough that an English remake was greenlit in America by director Matt Reeves as Let Me In, released just two years later. While Reeves’ adaptation is actually also very strong and not at all what you would have expected from a film at least partly made for audiences who simply don’t want to read subtitles (Reeves respected the material enough to even successfully fend off requests to up the central characters’ ages to more mass market-friendly levels), the original Swedish film still deserves to be seen first, not just because it came first, but since the presentation is a bit more interesting, mature, and, even apart from the language barrier, also a bit more challenging thanks to some more ambiguities in the characterizations and subtle hints about certain details of the characters’ histories. I also feel as though the performances are stronger in the Swedish film, even when considering the fact that Lina Leandersson’s voice was dubbed over to add more mystique to her character, Eli, which was not the case with her American counterpart.

Let the Right One In - Lina Leandersson

The central character here is a 12-year-old boy named Oskar, who lives primarily with his mother in Stockholm in a quiet, isolated apartment complex. Oskar makes occasional visits to his father’s home, as well, but, for the most part, both parents have no problems with leaving their son to his own devices. Unfortunately, this also means that they are unaware of Oskar’s being tormented by a trio of bullies at school, primarily by the sadistic leader of the group, Conny. Their uninvited attention has led to the normally quiet Oskar building up and hiding a lot of rage, which he only seems to unleash when he’s alone – often in disturbing ways, making death threats against imaginary versions of his bullies. One night, however, Oskar notices that some new neighbors have moved into the apartment next door – an older man and what appears to be a young girl his age. They, too, mostly keep to themselves and even go as far as blocking out their windows completely to the outside world. On a cold, snowy night, however, Oskar suddenly finds himself in the company of Eli, the child from next door. Eli attempts to remain distant from Oskar while still making small talk, but this curiosity soon leads to an unexpected bond between the two, and Eli also seems to struggle with what this relationship means – for the both of them, yes, but also for the man, Håkan, whose relationship with Eli is one of the more ambiguous and disturbing aspects of the story, even if some of the more disturbing details are only hinted at.

Let the Right One In - Harvesting

The most fascinating aspect of the film is how it portrays Oskar and Eli as tragic victims of their circumstances and yet also very clearly depicts them both as having dark sides that both admittedly are willing to tap into, to some extent. This is mirrored in Eli’s relationship with Håkan. Since we know Eli’s secret from the beginning, the film would at first seem to have us empathize with the older man, who is at the mercy of a child who can only subsist on the human blood that he has to collect. However, one has to wonder about how he came about becoming Eli’s familiar, considering his present age, and Eli’s appearance and pitying affection towards him as well as Oskar. This then brings to mind several questions. Who is the true victim, and who groomed whom? Or have the scales fluctuated with time? Across multiple victims? How many victims have there been? The how, when, and why of this relationship are never fully explained (unlike the 2010 remake, which sort of shied away from pedophilia), but the way in which this longstanding relationship mirrors and contrasts with that of the one only now forming between the lonely Eli and attention-starved Oskar and the unease and uncertainty of what lies ahead for them, given their circumstances, is certainly the most intriguing aspect of Let the Right One In.

Let the Right One In - Oskar being bullied

Depending on your perspective, Let the Right One In could potentially one of the bleakest coming of age films you’ll ever see, but for the more hopeful, it also leaves room for the potential of happiness, even if it’s at the end of a very dark tunnel. Personally, I appreciate that this film doesn’t feel the need to come to a definite conclusion or spell anything out regarding the nature of the relationships between its central characters, and so I don’t really feel the need to decide upon one myself, either. Whether you’re a child and feel as though even the most mundane issues in your life are equally important (or unimportant) as the serious ones or if you’re nearing the end of your life and feel as though everything you assumed to be a constant is still changing, possibly for the worse, the unease at the uncertainty of what lies ahead in life and the need for companionship along the way is pretty much a universal truth – one that even monsters contemplate. As an illustration of all the anxiety, pain, and joy that arise on this journey, Let the Right One In exceeds expectations.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 4.5 / 5

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  1. October 1, 2016 at 1:28 am

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