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New Release Review - THE HERE AFTER

A teenager struggles to fit back into his small village after being released from prison.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Magnus von Horn

Starring: Ulrik Munther, Sven Ahlstrom, Mats Blomgren, Stefan Cronwall, Loa Ek



Von Horn is largely ambiguous with regards to where he stands on the liberal nature of the Swedish justice system, shooting his film largely in a detached, voyeuristic fashion, but a scene in which John's father breaks down and admits he was all too naive in believing his son could adjust back into his village suggests a wry commentary.



There's been much highlighting in the news in recent years of the rise of far-right groups in Scandinavia, largely considered the most socially tolerant part of our world. Ironically, the main reason for this re-emergence of fascism appears to be the large scale immigration of refugees and migrants from Middle Eastern countries, many of whom hold ultra-conservative views that couldn't be in further opposition from those of liberal Northern Europeans. It seems extreme liberalism may have come full circle and spawned its worst nightmare. With his stark and gripping debut, Swedish writer-director Magnus von Horn seems to be tackling the changing mood of his people through allegorical means.
17-year-old John (a brilliant, dead-eyed turn from Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther) is released from a juvenile prison following a two year stretch for a crime left unmentioned for a good portion of the film. He reunites with his single father, Martin (Mats Blomgren), and his younger brother, Filip (Alexander Nordgren), and returns to the family's small farm, in the very same village he committed his crime! The severity of said crime becomes apparent when the family take a trip to the local supermarket and John spots a woman he seems to recognise. After stalking her through the aisles, the camera hovering over his shoulder as if he were a killer in a slasher movie, John is confronted by the woman, who explodes in rage, knocking him to the ground and attempting to strangle him. John lies prone, allowing the woman to indulge her violent actions until Martin pulls her away.
As if visiting local shops wasn't provocative enough, John is enrolled back into his old school, a move that, quite understandably given his crime, both enrages and scares his fellow pupils. John finds himself the target of violence, again refusing to fight back. One lone girl, Malin (Loa Ek), who wasn't around at the time of his crime, befriends him, and the two begin a romantic relationship. It's only a matter of time however before the Scandinavian tolerance of the locals is pushed to its limit.
Some reviews have been quite explicit about the specifics of John's crime, but I've purposely avoided going into detail, as Magnus von Horn constructs his story in a manner that keeps you guessing, and knowing the exact crime in question may change how you view the movie from the beginning. What I will say is that, for a non-Scandinavian the greatest shock comes from John's sentence of a mere two years for a crime that would see him spend at least half his life behind bars in most countries.
Von Horn is largely ambiguous with regards to where he stands on the liberal nature of the Swedish justice system, shooting his film largely in a detached, voyeuristic fashion, but a scene in which John's father breaks down and admits he was all too naive in believing his son could adjust back into his village suggests a wry commentary, in much the same way Mikael Marcimain's Call Girl subtly condemned Sweden's liberal sexual reforms of the mid 20th century. It's interesting also to note that those who defend John come from that same older generation, while his enemies come from his own peers; revolution may well be in the cold Nordic air.
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