Sanctuary (2013)

Rating: B-

Dir: Fredrik Edfeldt
Star: Jakob Cedergren, Clara Christiansson, Gunnel Fred, Maria Heiskanen
a.k.a. Faro

This is a very gentle, understated kind of film, considering what it could have been. A man (Cedergren) is wanted for murder, but takes his daughter, Hella (Christiansson), and vanishes into the remote depths of the Swedish forest to hide out, while the police and a social worker (Heiskanen) search for them. In Hollywood, this might have ended up being Rambo and Daughter: here, there’s a lot more sitting around the woods. Which sounds a lot duller than it is, since Edfeldt does an expert job at slowly revealing more about the past. Did the father really kill someone? If he did, what were the circumstances? What happened to Hella’s mother?

Not all of these are necessarily answered, at least, not definitively. But it doesn’t matter much, both because the resolution doesn’t really depend on the facts of the case, and also since this is more about the relationship between the father and daughter, with the nature they inhabit a silent third partner. With a film like this, as much hangs on the performances as the direction, and both leads deliver more than adequately here. The portrayal of how a single father interacts with the alien species which is a teenage girl, has a ring of painful authenticity; it’s clear the two characters care for each other, but that doesn’t bubble to the surface until it’s almost too late. There isn’t much tension, though I don’t think that was ever the intent.

There is, however, an odd little interlude in the middle where the daughter walks out of the forest, to spend the night with a former actress/model who is now… somewhat strange. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and doesn’t seem to serve much purpose. Still, for a film in which little else happens for the first hour, this is surprisingly engaging, with good cinematography and use of music helping sustain interest, when the storyline takes a break. It’s the kind of film that sneaks up on you a bit; by the end (which is more decisive than the rest of the film), you’ll find yourself owning a rather heavier investment in the fate of the characters than you’d expect.