Yarden’s unnamed protagonist (Anders Mossling) is a poet and writer who falls out of his middle-class lifestyle when he gives his own book a bad review. With nowhere else to turn, he takes up a manual labour job at the port in Malmo – work that is dominated by immigrant labour. In doing, he so comes face to face with a series of events and dilemmas that his previous existence had never dreamed of.
This is Swedish director Måns Månsson’s 8th time in the director’s chair, adapting the novel by Kristen Lundberg. It’s an intensely alienating film, throwing us neck deep into the world of a man with no name, only a worker’s number, whose choices and circumstance prior to the events of the film are never made entirely clear. He’s a single dad who is simply fed up with his previous life. Because of this it’s very difficult for the viewer to connect with him through his personality (which is so passive as to be largely non-existent). Instead, we simply observe from a distance as he attempts to adjust to his new circumstances.
Though the film is primarily a character study, it also examines issues of class and race, through a stark, passionless lens. The film is shot in a very gloomy manner, most shots drained of colour or life – the sole exceptions being the orange safety vests of the workers and the various diving sequences that signify the one seeming escape in the protagonists’ life.
If you’re looking for something uplifting or engaging, you’d best look elsewhere. Yarden is not interested in those things – there are no pleasant or warm feelings to be had here, just a bleak reality where every decision carries nasty consequences for yourself or others; where work bosses are, at best, indifferent or, at worst, actively hostile to the workers’ efforts at scraping out a living; where looking for extra cash means petty crime or turning informant on your co-workers. Our protagonist limps through the film seemingly barely affected by these problems, sunk deeply into his own crippling detachment.
That said, there is a certain extreme dry sense of humour here, though it’s played so straight that you’d almost miss it – mostly in the form of absurd situations and stumbling excuses. It’s not much, but it at least allows the audience to process the grim events on screen in a slightly less abstract way – these little moments are about all the human connection the film offers. The film’s shorter run time keeps it from over staying its austere welcome, but even then the lack of connection can make the film seemed stretched out.
All in all, if you want a dour story of social and class alienation plummeting through the black depths of mid-life confusion, this film may have something to offer you – just don’t expect to walk away from it with a spring in your step.
Reviewed by Brendan Whittaker
Rating out of 10: 6