In 2009, Jesper Ganslandt’s film The Ape was one of the most talked about films at TIFF. It was an intimate, and at times harsh, psychological study that cemented Ganslandt as one of the young directors to watch coming out of Sweden. Though his latest film, Blondie, is far warmer in tone than his previous effort, it is clear that Ganslandt is making good on the promise he showed a few years earlier.
On the eve of their mother’s, Sigrid (Marie Goranzon), 70th birthday celebrations, three sisters each return home with their own sets of troubles. Elin (Carolina Gynning), the oldest of the three, is a model whose lifestyle consists of drinking and drugs. Katarina (Helena af Sandeberg), the middle child, is a successful doctor with a husband, Janne (Olle Sarri), and two daughters of her own. Unhappy with her marriage, she is caught up in an affair with a younger man. Lova (Alexandra Dahlstrom), the youngest sibling, suffers from severe anxiety seemingly caused by the mental strain of her family.
Told over the course of three acts, Blondie examines the disintegration and rebuilding of a relationship between the two generations of women. While each of the siblings have their faults, it is clear that some of the blame for their dysfunction is directly tied to their mother. Sigrid is the furthest thing from the typical warm and loving mother. Though Sigrid loves her daughters, her domineering ways lead her to frequently play favourites amongst the siblings much to the chagrin of Elin.
As is to be expected with most family gatherings, the tension escalates as secrets and resentments are revealed. However, what makes Blondie such an engaging film is how Ganslandt structures his film in each act. The first part of the film is like a volcano about to erupt. The tension quickly builds as the dynamics between the sisters are on full display. The film’s pacing slows down in the second act as Ganslandt deliberately lets emotions fester. While this may annoy some, it works brilliantly when Ganslandt’s plans for the final act are revealed.
Blondie may play like a traditional family drama, but the script and performances elevate the film above most of its peers. Ganslandt crafts each woman in a way that you never truly hate any of them. They are all flawed characters who are determined to do everything but confront the real issues at hand. The four women all give strong performances in their respective roles. They really bring out the complexities of each woman without ever making the conflicts feel forced.
From a visual perspective, Blondie is a splendid treat that is reminiscent of directors such Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. However, Ganslandt is by no means an imitator; he manages to incorporate some of the techniques used in The Ape to create a wonderfully crisp looking film. The best part is that the visuals never overshadow the strong performances or overall story. While family and the bonds created are familiar themes, Blondie offers a wonderful take on them and should not be missed.