Too often when American audiences think of foreign film, they imagine the kind of stuffy films that critics tend to praise, the types that end up on best-of lists despite the average audience’s inability appreciate the artistry. Britt-Marie Was Here is not that kind of film, instead resembling the kind of crowd-pleasing, feel-good films that tend to do well in the American independent film industry. Quirky films with heart may not surpass the blockbusters in the box office, but they have an audience that translates across borders. All it would take for this film to translate to English-speaking audiences is the willingness to read subtitles.
Britt-Marie Was Here is based on the best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman, the author who also wrote A Man Called Ove (also turned into a film in 2015). For those familiar with Backman’s work, the tone of Britt-Marie Was Here should already be familiar. Familiar, but in no way revolutionary, either in narrative or filmmaking. In fact, the reliance on tropes is so predominant from start to finish I rarely had any doubts about where the plot was going. Even as a Frankenstein-like combination of ‘woman-in-crisis’ and ‘underdog sports’ narratives, along with a lot of loose ends involving race, age and social classes, somehow it was always predictable.
Pernilla August stars as the title character, a 63-year-old housewife whose discovery of her husband’s infidelity sparks a monumental life change. Looking for any work available to someone with no job experience, Britt-Marie takes a job running a youth center in the small town of Borg. Ironically, in her efforts to get away from her soccer-loving unfaithful husband, her only job opportunity requires that she coach the local children’s soccer team. Having never had an interest in the sport or children, she must suddenly learn about both in order to survive.
Of course, this film is about more than just survival, and Britt-Marie finds more than just a job in Borg. As she coaches the kids, she ends up learning more about herself. When the job in Borg is in danger of disappearing, and the possibility to reunite with her husband appears, she must decide for once what she wants out of life. Add to this a great deal of quirky charm from the citizens of Borg, and you have a contrived but crowd-pleasing film. In fact, it is like several films crammed into one, but there is not nearly enough time to give proper attention to each with a 97-minute run-time, and it all feels a bit perfunctory.
The Blu-ray release comes without extras, and the film itself has little need for the high definition upgrade.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 0/10