I remember my younger days of “man, Ulrik Munther is fucking hot”.
It would be easy to draw parallels to Mommy (2014): a troubled teenager with a criminal history is let out of prison and back into the hands of a single parent, only to find the world outside is hostile and unaccommodating, leading to a crisis point where the issue of whether he should even be in the outside world is discussed, or forced upon him. The role of the parent is also called into question, with their involvement gradually reaching the point of overbearing and placing too much control on their child (although in other ways too little).
That is about where the similarities end. This is the utopia of Sweden, where students address teachers by their first name, teenagers casually drive their parents around (rather than the other way around), high schools have 300 students, parent/teacher/student discussions are democratic and resist the police at all costs, and guns are casually placed in Ikea bags.
In Mommy, Steve was a highly sympathetic character, although with a sense of aggression. We can also be sympathetic towards John. His aggression is provoked, always aggravated. His fellow students treat him as suspect within a culture of fear, based on a prior sin. But they cannot forgive him, unable to even accept him as the quiet kid in the back of the class. By relying too heavily on this false image, they are able to let John move on when he has already moved on. An interesting question we should consider in our everyday life: where does revenge and suspicion go too far?
Magnus Von Horn focuses a lot of his attention on stationary shots that last an eternity; he also borrows the ‘frame within a frame’ idea that pervades films such as Tokyo Story (1953) and In the Mood for Love (2000). Sometimes frustrating, but it’s an interesting technique that helps communicate how static and isolating both John’s household and by extension his own life is.
My impression going into this film anticipated the “troubled kid goes on a school shootout” genre, in the same vain as We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and Elephant (2003). The film never gives us this. We see John with the rifle, but he never reaches full breaking point. Perhaps for the best.