An Imaginary Friend

This lucid Swedish indie gem, adapted for the screen by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his novel and directed with imagination and restraint by Tomas Alfredson, releases the vampire movie from overwrought conventions like close-ups on trembling bosoms and bloody fangs, offering instead a coolly balanced and utterly compelling examination of alienation and love. Let the Right One In follows the burgeoning relationship between Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a pale 12-year-old tormented by bullies and ignored by adults, and his new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), who is “more or less” 12 years old and, though less pale, a vampire (albeit one who needs her “father” to bring her blood). Eli enters the friendship reluctantly, but it becomes apparent that each offers what the other lacks—Oskar gets strength to face down the bullies, while she gains acceptance, love, and maybe a new blood supplier. Set in a wintry Stockholm suburb, the film is lit like a Renaissance painting. In addition, the audacious sound design—the silence of snow broken by faint sounds of a child breathing or eyelashes fluttering; the dense, vividly impressionistic noises of the vampire feeding—and wise performances from Hedebrant and (especially) Leandersson, infuse the film with a low-key naturalism that allows for maximum believability. Right One returns to the archetype of the immortal its poetic cohesiveness and the power of myth.
Nov. 7-13, 2008

 
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