By Adam Frazier
“Let the Right One In” is an endearing coming-of-age story that is so unique and exceptional it defies classification. In this Swedish film, adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s bestselling novel, director Tomas Alfredson masterfully weaves a story of falling in love that is both horrifying and tender.
12-year-old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a victim of relentless bullying. When we’re first introduced to young Oskar, he is alone in his bedroom, dressed only in his underwear. Immediately the insecurities that rule Oskar’s everyday life shine through his porcelain skin. The innocence and vulnerability of Hedebrant’s performance is a tour-de-force, completely authentic and believable in every matter of speaking.
Lina Leandersson plays Eli, a 12-year-old girl who moves into Oskar’s housing complex outside Stockholm. The two meet one snowy afternoon at a jungle gym in the complex’s courtyard. Eli is a sad, lonely creature who Oskar immediately latches on to as his one and only friend. After an initial period of awkward timidity, a tender affection is formed between the two.
At this point, you might be wondering what the film’s title refers to, being as this is just a sweet tale of young, Swedish love. “Let the Right One In” is actually a play on the myth that a vampire cannot enter a house unless invited by the owner.
Wait? What? Vampires? Did I hear that right? Yes, you certainly did. Tomas Alfredson’s unique little film is a love story wrapped in the trappings of traditional vampire lore. Now, I realize vampire romanticism isn’t exactly a new concept, in fact it’s more popular than ever.
From Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series, to Stephenie Meyer’s young adult Twilight series and “True Blood,” HBO’s latest hit show based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries books by Charlaine Harris, it’s hard to find a vampire doing anything BUT making a little romance these days.
This fairly clichÃ© idea, fueled by themes of forbidden love, is given a breath of fresh air in “Let the Right One In.” Having Oskar and Eli at the young, innocent age of 12 gives the story a whole new spin. These characters are lonely, unsure of what real love is – all they can do is open their hearts to one another and hope it makes sense. There is no seduction or manipulation – just sweet adoration for one another.
The main difference between “Let the Right One In” and the romances in Twlight or Interview with the Vampire is simple. Those tales are filled with attractive, seductive creatures that make starry-eyed females fall head-over-heels immediately. They beg to be bitten, and dream of living eternally in bliss with their supernatural lovers – but not in Alfredson’s picture. Eli is tormented by her affliction and we are shown time and time again its burden on her life. Oskar genuinely loves her and pities her situation, and will do anything to protect her – even after witnessing firsthand the foul, grotesque things she must do to survive.
“Let the Right One In” is one of the finest films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. It’s a beautiful, serene experience that will chill you to the bone while warming your heart with those fuzzy feelings of young love.
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