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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SIFF Sighting: UPPERDOG (drama; Norway)

Axel (Hermann Sabado) and Anne (Birgitte Victoria Svendsen) are a brother and sister of Asian heritage, adopted by separate Norwegian parents. Axel is the younger of the two, and has no conscious memories of his past; Anne is older and remembers him, and their life with the mother they shared.

Anne is a working class, sweet individual who enjoys a modest life. Axel has enjoyed a privileged upbringing and has the spoiled attitude to show for it. He entraps his current girlfriend by sending a man to cheat with her (she complies), then uses his "grief" over losing her as an excuse to move back in with his wealthy parents and do... nothing. Well, except for the maid.

The maid his parents have hired, Maria (Agnieszka Grochowska) is a feisty, gorgeous girl from Poland, earning money to send back to the son she left behind. Despite Axel's awful treatment of her, she falls in love with him and realizes from a picture on the wall that he is the long-lost brother of her roommate and friend Anne. When she attempts to reunite the two, she at first fails, but when Anne learns of how close she's become with Axel, she reconsiders and agrees to a reunion.

This is all incredibly compelling (and well-acted), but what slows the film down is the romance that Anne enters into with Per (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen), a soldier back from the war who is fighting his own demons from the past. He has the potential to be the most complex of the characters, but unfortunately falls short, leaving us to wonder why Anne is so smitten with him.

In a profound way, the film communicates how deeply we can be affected by things that happened to us months or even years ago. How our day-to-day life is altered by how we view our identity, and why resolution and healing are so critical to our personal growth.

UPPERDOG screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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