Starring: Christoffer Nordenrott, Lisa Henni, Jesper Barkselius, Pia Halvorsen, Krister Kern
Written By: Victor Danell, Christoffer Nordenrott
Directed By: Victor Danell
800,000 people have lost what’s most important to us
People will talk about “the unthinkable happening,” and what they actually mean is a matter of perspective. Lots of things are unthinkable: a child not getting the Christmas present they wanted, a spouse leaving you in the middle of the night, the sudden death of a family member, a catastrophic shutdown of your country by terrorists. Just to name a few.
The Unthinkable (2018) is a hard film to discuss without taking away a lot of the magic that makes it work so well. I’ll try to keep any twists and turns secret. If you want to go in completely cold, you can leave knowing that the film is gorgeous and an effective character piece with genre trappings, and it’s absolutely worth watching.
Now, for everyone who’s still here… ‘sup? When I sat down to watch The Unthinkable, I knew there was something that made it more than a straight drama, but that’s about it. So when it opened up on a troubled family, there absolutely could have been a “when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?” feeling. But there wasn’t.
The movie starts in Sweden in 2005. Alex (Christoffer Nordenrott) is a meek teenager who has a difficult relationship with his father Bjorn (Jesper Barkselius) and his mother Klara (Ulrika Backstrom). Klara is more caring, but she also has to deal with Bjorn, who is too preoccupied by his feelings of worthlessness to actually express anything to his family. Needless to say, the family unit falls apart, and the movie jumps ahead about a decade.
Alex is now a famous musician, having taught himself to play the piano after running away from home. Bjorn lives alone and spouts conspiracy theories while working at the nearby power station, and Klara was killed in a recent terrorist attack. I won’t give anymore of the beat-by-beat plot away, but I will say that the movie continues to take unexpected avenues — story-wise and genre-wise — until the final act. I still wasn’t quite sure who the lead of the film was supposed to be until it was over an hour in, and I don’t mean that as a negative. The film has a large scope thematically, but it’s fairly contained geographically, so the shifting points-of-view helped expand things.
I was shocked when I found out that a large part of the budget was crowdfunded. The effects are used with restraint, but it never feels like they’re hiding things for the purpose of hiding them. Every explosion or crashing helicopter feels purposeful and real. There’s a standout scene that’s an unrelenting torrent of cars smashing into each other — and ramping over each other — and it’s a refreshingly visceral action beat to see in a modern film. The movie reminded me a lot of Cloverfield (2008). It wasn’t shot in first-person, but it had the same man-on-the-street perspective when shit started going sideways.
Ultimately the most effective parts of The Unthinkable were the character beats. Like Alex reconnecting with his teenage crush, Anna (Lisa Henni) and dealing with her having a family, which is something he may have thought unthinkable in any other situation. Like the similarities and weaknesses of Alex and Bjorn, their stubborn disconnect caused by unexamined generational trauma. Nordenrott has a young Anthony Edwards vibe going on. Even though his character starts off meek and bottled up and changes to cold and withdrawn, we can still see the humanity through his clenched physicality and expressive eyes. Jesper Barkselius is a great Bjorn. I didn’t necessarily feel sorry for him being abandoned by his family. I was definitely cheering him on during later parts of the film. He has a very put-upon quality about him. The fact that Bjorn’s clearly a loser elicits a lot of sympathy.
I may have started the film a little confused why we were spending half an hour on a family drama, but by the end, that was what I latched on to the most, and everything else was just gravy.
The Unthinkable was a nice surprise, and I look forward to what Victor Danell (using the name Crazy Pictures) and Christoffer Nordenrott (who co-wrote the film) have in store for us next. Hopefully, it will be just as unpredictable and just as entertaining.
The 21st annual Boston Underground Film Festival ran from March 20th to March 24th. To find out more about the festival and to be sure you get your tickets for next year, check out their website.