At times, this downbeat first feature from Norwegian actress turned writer-director Camilla Strøm Henriksen plays like a horror film. The camera lurks in the shadows of a dim apartment; a single mother teeters on the edge of madness. There is a killing and an attempt at a cover-up. Strøm Henriksen’s fitful genre flourishes attempt to illuminate a kind of horror more grounded in reality – the quotidian misery of children forced to fend for themselves. Jill (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin) has a mother, Astrid (Maria Bonnevie), who is an alcoholic artist; her father, Nils (Sverrir Gudnason), is an absent, womanising jazz musician. A stoic pragmatist accustomed to looking after her younger brother, Bo (Casper Falck-Løvás), Jill’s giddy excitement upon receiving a sparkly pink dress – a birthday present – is heartbreaking. She’s turning 14. Bjørkaas Thedin’s debut performance is striking in its restraint, but the film’s thriller mode and social commentary B-plot never quite cohere.
Simran Hans is a film critic for the Observer and a culture writer whose work has appeared in, among others, BuzzFeed, Dazed, the FADER and Sight & Sound.