Monday, May 5, 2014

Simon and the Oaks
Originally released in Sweden, December 9th, 2011, releasing on DVD in the US, May 6th, 2014
2 hrs 2 mins
Not Rated


Lisa Ohlin

Bill Skarsgård as Simon Larsson
Helen Sjöholm as Karin Larsson
Jan Josef Liefers as Ruben Lentov
Stefan Gödicke as Erik Larsson
Karl Linnertorp as Isak Lentov
Jonatan Wächter as young Simon
Karl Martin Eriksson as young Isak
Erica Löfgren as Klara
Katharina Schüttler as Iza
Josefin Neldén as Mona
Lena Nylén as Olga
Cecilia Nilsson as Inga
Jan-Erik Emretsson as Klas, neighbor
Pär Brundin as Åke, neighbor
Frederik Nilsson as Teacher
Hermann Beyer as Ernst Habermann

Review by Stephen M.

Simon and the Oaks is based on a best selling novel of the same name by Swedish author Marianne Fredriksson.  It is a coming of age tale of two boys in Sweden during the years leading up to World War 2 and the conclusion of the war.  In the film, both boys from completely different backgrounds come together, each with their own little secrets is a compelling story that unfortunately unfolds at a snail pace.  However, if you're a fan of slow moving dramas or have the patience to sit through this one, you'll be touched and rewarded with amazing performances and set pieces.

The film gives us a nice glimpse into the life of two Swedish families during the fervor of the Nazi regimes as countries were falling like dominoes.  The story focuses on Simon (Bill Skarsgård) who has always felt out of place since his youth not easily making friends and lacking the toughness that his hard working father expects of him.  He meets Isak (Karl Linnertorp) at a new school he enrolls in which are mainly for rich kids and immediately hits it off when he defends Isak from antisemitic bullies.  Through a series of events, they come to live together and their stories slowly unfolds.

The movie features several strong performances especially from the ladies in the movie.  Most notable would be Simon's mother Karin (Helen Sjöholm) as well as his aunt Inga (Cecilia Nilsson) is just outstanding in their roles.  While you read in history books about what happened during World War 2 with the concentration camps, and the battles that would lead to the Allies victory, you rarely get to see the side of the every day civilians and the anxiety they faced leading up to the war.  This film gives us this not only from a perspective of a Jewish family but others as well.

Overall, I would recommend watching this film at least once.  It is a very long movie which has pacing problems as we see Simon and Isak grow up and at times just be boys.  I really don't get the whole symbolism of the oak tree that Simon grows up with by his home. As well as his behavior while partially explained through his roots is still enigmatic from beginning to end.  But the relationships between characters is what draws you in as friendships, romances and lost relationships are explored.


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