Yarden comes from a long line of irrepressibly gloomy Nordic films, although here the angst is less sensational than the endless stream of extraordinarily profitable crime thrillers that make their way down from the North Sea. The story, from an autobiographical book by Kristian Lundberg, concerns the quietly depressive mid-life crisis that befalls an unnamed widower (Anders Mossling) who gives up his intellectual standing as both literary critic and poet by writing himself a terrible review. He lives in apathetic torpor with his floppy-haired teenage son (Axel Roos), and decides to take a menial job at a car yard.
It’s a film rife with alienation. Our unnamed protagonist is asked by his new supervisor Jonas (Robert Bengtsson) where he is from. It takes a while to register that he is the only ethnically Swedish worker there (indeed later his son cuttingly calls it an “immigrant job”), and he told is soon after to find a new team as he doesn’t fit in. Although there is the occasional overture to new friendships, what follows is a catalogue of strangely unlucky situations befalling the widower. He bears it all with little complaint and remains mostly an enigma to the audience. Why does he breathe from an oxygen tank in an empty bathtub in his spare time? Why does he take the car yard job in the first place? There is almost certainly a link with the death of his wife, but the film seems to share its characters’ inability to communicate their inner workings.
Yarden is very restrained indeed: don’t hold out for raised voices – they never come. But this is not why the film fails to deliver an emotional punch alongside compatriots, such as the Finnish Aki Kaurismaki, who are adept at finding emotional footing amid a surface of deadpan minimalism. Its problems are down to director Måns Månsson’s struggle to collate a handful of fascinating and droll scenes into a coherent whole. There’s a fluctuation from Ken Loach-style working-class naturalism to almost abstract long-distance shots, reminiscent of Jacques Tati (reducing the protagonist to an orange-clad blur amidst the cemetery of empty grey cars), and many transitions into a more standardised Swedish absurdist black comedy. It makes for a frustrating experience because there are puddles of talent here and there but they seem to evaporate in the long run, resulting in a rather dry and unfulfilling experience.
Yarden does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Yarden here: