Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson
Written By: John Ajvide Lindquist (novel/screenplay)
Let the Right One In is adapted from the 2004 Sweedish graphic novel, both of which are written by John Ajvide Lindquist. Having the author adapt the film was a very wise step and we are given a very thoughtful film because of it. The film is slow moving, but interesting and visually vibrant. There is a lot of dedication put in to every minute of the film much more so than the vast majority of vampire films. Let the Right One In is a refreshing and darkly intriguing film.
Oskar (Hedebrant) is a socially awkward 12 year-old kid who lives in Blackeberg, a suburb outside of Stockholm in the early 1980’s. He constantly seems to be a target for other kids to pick on. Most of his teachers don’t even seem all that supportive. There are a few school bullies in particular that constantly make fun and brutally beat up on him. There seems to be no end to this and he is too afraid to fight back. Oskar doesn’t have anyone he can really talk to. He doesn’t even tell his mother what happened and he doesn’t see his father very often. Oskar dreams of revenge, using the bullies’ words against them and being able to make them sorry for the constant torment that they show him every day.
One night when he is acting out how this might go he spots Eli (Leandersson), a young (or so it seems) mysterious girl. Before long, they meet outside every night to spend time together. Eli encourages Oskar to stand up for himself, which he has never done before. She helps him gain this courage and promises if that doesn’t make them go away that she will help him in a more direct way. Oskar joins a weight lifting after school program to try to defend his self for the first time. W his bully picks on him the next time Oskar sends him to the hospital.
Oskar has Eli to thank for this and really appreciates he has someone that is there for him. It still doesn’t escape him that there is something very unusual about her. She only comes out in the dark, has ice cold skin but claims she never feels cold, and has to be asked to be invited in. As time goes on Oskar does realize that she is a vampire. He is exposed to the blood and victimization she places on others. At first this is a bit overwhelming for him. He learns to accept this about her as he realizes that she doesn’t do it for desire, but out of necessity to survive. The murders that Eli has been committing got the town determined to find and stop the killer. There are witnesses who have seen Eli. She is only safe if she keeps on the move, which means leaving Oskar.
Kåre Hedebrant did very well as the oddball outsider just trying to get through all of the troubles that life hits him with. He is very open and kind towards Eli, which just goes to show that it is not him but others who have forced his seclusion. He gives a very natural reaction to learning his one friend is a vampire. He is shocked and tries to get away, but he is really just giving himself some time to let it all sink in. Oskar continues to see Eli but doesn’t hide the fact that he isn’t okay with what she does. He begins to understand more and puts her life above what he believes. Lina Leandersson was wonderful as Eli. She was strangely charming, which fits since it is likely this is part of what keeps Oskar coming back to her. She gains our understanding and compassion. Leandersson really makes the appropriate changes from being the sweet eternally 12 year-old girl to the blood seeking beast that lets her instincts take over. When out for blood or when it unexpectedly presents itself to her, she transforms in to a very animalistic creature that takes over everything else. There is still a sense of humanity in her even through this. She normally doesn’t resist until they are completely dead. She doesn’t try to turn others in to vampires and doesn’t impose her lifestyle on others.
Let The Right One In is a very slow paced movie. The film takes a very different approach and gives us a strangely quiet and still film. It isn’t heavy in dialogue, but does convey a lot to us in a very subtle manner. Majority of the film actually feels like a drama, especially through the time that Eli and Oskar spend together. Their relationship, slowly getting to know each other is really the base of the film and what the bulk of the time is spent on. It goes deeper in to the fact that the only kind and likeable character aside from Oskar rips people apart and sucks out their blood. She resorts to violence when she has to, but it seems so many others use violence as sport. We see it runs in one of the families. Oskar’s bully has an even more vicious older brother who treats people the same and most likely taught his brother to be how he is. The others who follow him show that they don’t really want to be so vicious as it does hurt them. This acceptance and protection that treating others so horribly gives them, and perhaps a fear of them being the victim, makes them do this day after day. Adolescence is treated as the true horror here and rightfully so. It takes an admiring vampire to save a young boy from the torment he is constantly shown. Two outsiders connect and are given the only hope that they have been allowed in quite some time. Let The Right One In acknowledges tragedies all around.
It is not a traditionally gruesome film, but there is blood. The image of Eli attacking, consuming the blood, and seeing the blood covering this little girl’s face were very striking. The deaths are significantly spread out, which makes them seem like a smaller element of the film. One of the best scenes is when we fear the life of our protagonist. Through an underwater shot of Oskar nearly being drowned we slowly see something plunge in to the pool, which ends up being body parts one by one dropping. Once Oskar is safe we see that revenge has been established through what is left of the dead bodies lying near the pool.
The cinematography is very well done. The majority of the film is very white. The blood against the glowing image of the snow combined with the moderation it is showed to us in makes it stand out even more. Whenever there is even a hint of light when a vampire is present, there is almost an overpowering brightness. When one of the characters is fully exposed to this there is an equally stimulating shot showing us the repercussions of this. Both Oskar and Eli are very pale, but the contrast is in their hair color. The light haired human with the dark haired vampire work well to bring out the good and the evil not just in these two, but in the very lonely world that they are living in. The two of these have a lot of contrast in them as well as Oskar is unable to fight back and Eli is unable to stop.
The film takes the time to explore very many sides to its multi-dimensional story. It has something to say and does it with subtlety and craft. It has a completely unique feeling from nearly any other vampire film. It uses far more insight and gives us surely one of the best vampire films to date. Let The Right One In deals with injustice, dependency on violence, loneliness, friendship, and bending the rules at times.