Behind Blue Skies -- Film Review

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TORONTO -- Swedish filmmaker Hannes Holm turns a jaundiced eye on 1970s idealism and nostalgia in "Behind Blue Skies" but its discordant elements leave it not as funny and penetrating as it was no doubt intended to be.

Satirical pokes at Swedish society at the time are unlikely to strike too many chords overseas and while there are some appealing performances, the picture seems bound for a cloudy time beyond home territory.

It doesn't help that a brief and needless but jolting hard-core image at the start of the film gives a false impression since it is not repeated and nothing like it. Bill Skarsgard, fresh-faced, tall and engaging, is Martin, a young man eager to take a summer job with his best friend Micke (Adam Palsson) not least to get away from his drunken and abusive father.

The job offer from Micke's father, however, involves grunt work at a posh yacht club at an island resort which the manager, Gosta (Peter Dalle) runs like boot camp. Bluff and confident, Gosta holds a morning inspection in which he sniffs every young face for traces of booze from the previous night and dismisses anyone who breaks his rules.

When Martin helps another worker steal some beer for a party, he's the only one to confess in the morning. He is fired, but Gosta admires his honesty and promptly offers him a different line of work.

Naive and eager to please, the boy fails to realize that his boss is in the drug-dealing business even when he demonstrates that he has interests in a brothel and a strip club. Not even when the man's henchman beats him up does Martin appear twig that he's in the middle of a criminal enterprise.

There's an undercover sting operation involved and a love affair with a young woman played with unadorned simplicity by a very pretty blonde named Josefin Ljungman.

The writer/director's wish to wrap up everything in a tidy package, however, undermines the satire, and a scene toward the end that signals deeper corruption seems merely half-hearted.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Nordisk Film)
Production company: Fladen Film
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Peter Dalle, Josefin Ljungman
Director/screenwriter: Hannes Holm
Producer: Patrick Ryborn
Director of photography: Goran Hallberg
Editor: Frederik Morheden
No rating, 110 minutes
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