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Monday, January 31, 2011

Let Me In

From the director of... Cloverfield?
In 2008, Tomas Alfredson gave audiences a nervous peek at the life of two lonely people - one, a young boy with an interest in vengeance and knives. The other, a child, who feeds off of human blood. Both children walk through life feeling alone, though seeking very similar things. They both need comfort, they need togetherness, they need each other. In any way they can get it. 

Director Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield misfortune, tackles not just the screenplay by, but also the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist "Lat den ratte komma in (Let the Right One In)". Lindqvist wrote the 2008 adaptation.

More after the cut --

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this film is its exploration of aloneness. Like Alfredson's film, our young boy protagonist isn't much of a protagonist at all. He has a thing for knives and peeps in on his neighbors, he doesn't know how to stand up for himself, and he lets a man die. Owen, in this film (Oskar, in the other), is a coward - but we understand why. He's beaten and bullied on a daily basis and doesn't know how to stand on his own two feet and say "no". His bullies call him "little girl", beat him, and try to see his genitals; no wonder Owen fantasizes about killing them. 

Abby, in this film (Eli, in the other), we know almost nothing of. We're told very early on (and by early on, I mean... the trailer) that she's a vampire. But, she wasn't always a vampire. Someone turned her. Was she as lonely as Owen before, and is that why she sees him as a friend? Or, is she lonely now, and knows that he'll comfort her, because he needs a friend? She has a father, or rather... a caregiver. Probably a man who, when Abby was "younger" (she's been twelve for quite a while now), was in the same position Owen is. He is familiar to her and provides for her everything she needs to keep going - fresh human blood. His murders take them from town to town, and lead a hunt for a serial killer. 

Again, we're reminded of Owen and his knives and bullies. He might be everything Abby needs, in many ways. 

Matt Reeves' film succeeds in that it's an adaptation of two celebrated works - a film, and a novel on which the prior film is based. So, Reeves can not only remake a modern classic, but he can re-imagine it as well from the source text. This gives him, seemingly, more room to create. He strays very little from either material, though, and it serves him well. There isn't anything to improve or update, really. Between the two films, the only major inclusion that we won't find in the original is a "one take" car crash that is jaw-droppingly conceived. The major flaw, however, in Reeves' adaptations is the stereotype that all Americanized vampires seem to fall under, post Queen of the Damned. Super fast, and able to nearly leap tall buildings in a single bound. They're treated like X-Men rather than the tortured souls they are. All that, and the mystery of Abby/Eli is all but done away with. We're told what we're supposed to guess pretty much from the start.

Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz play Owen and Abby. McPhee proved himself an actor to watch in 2009's The Road, and here he tinkers with the same amount of vulnerability and class. He is at once an active actor, but almost entirely internal. Moretz, on the other hand, can do anything she wants. She's one of the best of her generation, and has learned to disappear into her characters. I've never seen her act. I doubt I ever will. Their performances are touching, adult and mature, and fully realized. Brilliant work, especially when considering just how young these children are. 

This is a remarkably artsy film, and probably not what most audiences were expecting - even those who saw and loved the original griped that the film would Cullenize a poignant story of loss, loneliness, and violence. What we got, though? A film that recognizes the current state of vampire films in Hollywood, but has enough respect for the source artist to breathe new life into a story that, unfortunately, most people probably hadn't heard of. Reeves' work is commendable, at least. 

Owen and Abby find love, their own way, in each other. And who's to say how they will turn out? We aren't,  that's for damn sure. The point of it all is, they are no longer alone. And they truly found each other, late one night, at poolside.