Written and directed by Pål Sletaune
Norwegian with English subtitles
Single mother Anna (Rapace) and her 8 year old son, Anders, move into an apartment block after escaping her abusive husband who almost killed their young son. Upon moving into their new home, Anna is understandably concerned and protective of her son, however she takes it to the extreme in making him sleep next to her rather than in his own room. The fear of being found by her estranged husband appears to have deeply affecting Anna and her concern for the welfare of her son takes precidence. After visits from the social workers, she is forced into allowing Anders to sleep in his own room after they warn her that her ex is trying to fight for custody. Anna eventually gives in when she purchases a pair of baby monitors, so she can monitor Anders whilst he sleeps in the other room. Anna is pleased with their new living arrangement, however when she awakens to screams emitting from the monitor from another set in the apartment building, she becomes fearful and suspicious of her neighbours around her. With only a lonely electronic store worker as friend, Anna must deal with her increasing paranoia whilst protecting Anders at all costs.
I’m a big fan of Swedish born actress, Noomi Rapace, who I first noticed in the adaptation of the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as troubled computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Noomi’s role was demanding as Lisbeth and she rose to the challenge to totally become her in every way. Noomi then went on to become the lead of Ridley Scott’s much anticipated Prometheus which I thoroughly enjoyed but Rapace’s role wasn’t as convincing as that in the Millennoum Trilogy. The scenes in Prometheus where she was happy go lucky didn’t quite work that well. However, she performed with gusto in the action and intense scenes and it’s with Babycall where we are back in Noomi’s territory. She has an ability to play troubled parts with perfection, not saying much but acting her entire character across to the viewer. In Babycall, her character demands a lot, as Anna is a distubed young woman who’s lead a life of fear and has the maternal instinct to protect her son at all costs. However, the poor woman is so broken and scared, she sits in the school playground all day waiting for Anders to exit at home time. Noticing her strange behavour, the headteacher apporaches her but Anna makes a swift exit and catches a bus only to get off at the next stop and walk back to the school. Not only is Anna paranoid, but she’s also a bit obsessive and wrapping Anders up in cotton wool won’t help him or her sanity.
Whilst Anders is at school, she visits an electrical store where she bumps into store worker Helge (a superb Kristoffer Joner) who she had previously spoken to on the bus. He is a bit like Anna, he’s lonely and shy but due to a bad childhood where his mother would never let him play out or do anything in fear of getting hurt. The two misfits start a friendship and once Anna starts hearing blood-curdling screams picked up by her baby monitor purchased from the store, Helge becomes her most important ally. However, Helge is convinced she is imagining things from lack of sleep. Anna starts to break down when she struggles to define imagination from reality.
Her young son Anders, played by Vetle Qvenild Werring, is a likeable child who loves his mum but sometimes yearns for the independence that other children his age have. Anders makes a new friend at school which pleases Anna but her troubles become a lot worse when the male social worker starts coming onto her, verbally suggesting that if she refuses to play ball, he’ll make sure she’s seen as an unfit mother and Ander’s father will gain custody of their child. Battling with her mind and reality, Anna must find a solution and an escape from this nightmare.
Babycall is an engaging film, even those with litte dialogue capture strong emotions. Anna’s friendship with Helge is quite cute with both being social misfits and finding a kindred spirit in one another. Director Pål Sletaune documents Anna’s coping mechanics brilliantly and leaves us guessing where her mental state currently is at. Whilst the kick of the film is sharp, it sometimes just misses with a couple of things unexplained, such as how Anna got wet during a certain scene. Nevertheless, this is certainly a movie to watch and just goes to show that the Norwegians, Danish and Swedish have the upper hand when it comes to thrillers.