Review #5: Let the Right One In

Title: Let the Right One In (originally Låt den rätte komma in)
Year: 2008
Rating: R
Language: Swedish
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Director(s): Tomas Alfredson
Writer(s): John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay & novel)
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar (Storm), Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord

Oskar is a young boy pushed to his limits by bullying.

Summary: Set in Sweden during the 1980s, Let the Right One In tells the story of Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a shy and very bullied twelve-year-old boy from a broken home. When not being ignored by everyone around him, Oskar is frequently chased through the halls of his school by several boys, who then hold him down until he “squeals like a pig” to avoid a beating. Having grown increasingly disturbed by these attacks, Oskar spends evenings pretending to torture his antagonists, until a strange man (Per Ragnar) and girl (Lina Leandersson) move in next door and board their windows up with cardboard posters. Not long after her arrival, the girl, Eli, begins to visit Oskar on the playground at night, appearing very sickly but bright beyond her years, until the two develop an awkward friendship and childhood “romance.” Though thrilled with her companionship, Oskar begins to suspect that Eli is more than just an outcast due to her nocturnal visits and bizarre behavior, such as walking through the snow barefoot. Then, when murders begin to crop up around the city, each victim bearing a torn apart throat and broken neck, Oskar learns that, if he truly loves Eli, he must learn how to stand up for himself and play a part in a possibly violent future.

When forced to enter someone’s home without being invited, Eli experiences harrowing results.

Review: Before I say anything else, I will say that I hate Twilight and the modern vampire it’s created, and that, by no means, is this movie similar.

Let the Right One In is both a clever and touching coming-of-age story about broken children, as well as a gritty horror that reminds us of why vampires were once frightening. Its story flows well despite the fact that it heavily encompasses drama and horror, and I attribute this successful genre-blending to the phenomenal writing of John Ajvide Lindqvist and the acting of Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant, who really capture the identities of two children unfairly robbed of their innocence. The morals of violence and idea of loss of innocence are explored throughout, particularly through Eli, who is at times a loving friend and caretaker to Oskar, and, at other points, an inhuman creature surviving off of human blood and prone to using violence as a solution. Because of her two-sided nature — is she evil or just surviving? —  Oskar and Eli’s relationship, the focal point of the movie, is complicated, and, for American viewers, it is also questionable, as it steps into territory our films rarely touch: you will see a child commit extreme acts of violence and you will see two youths discovering their sexuality (though never actually engaging in it). The discomfort you feel at these points is important to drive the film’s message home: children are not supposed to experience the mature things that Eli and Oskar do, it’s simply not natural.

Overall, though its cinematography is beautiful and often bright, this film is never light-hearted (even its ending is only vaguely happy if you want it to be) but it carries a message that needs to be heard and, along the way, introduces deeply realistic characters you can’t help but to care for. Rather than becoming a supernatural thrill ride, Let the Right One In reminds its viewers that childhood is a fragile time of self discovery, and warns of the broken spirits that can come from a childhood cut short by violence and/or sexual abuse. In the end, we must come of age and discover ourselves at our own pace, because if we aren’t allowed to know ourselves, how will we know who the right one to let in is?

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About Sprocket Reviews

I'm just a writer and film fanatic trying to pass the time.
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