Under The Sun

  • 2000
  • 1 HR 58 MIN
  • NR

A touching coming-of-age story from Sweden, made interesting by the fact that the protagonist is a lonely, middle-aged farmer rather than an adolescent. Rural Sweden, 1956: Since his mother's death nine years earlier, Olof (Rolf Lassgård) has lived alone on his family's farm, with only his dog for companionship. Illiterate and still a virgin at the ripe...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A touching coming-of-age story from Sweden, made interesting by the fact that the protagonist is a lonely, middle-aged farmer rather than an adolescent. Rural Sweden, 1956: Since his mother's death nine years earlier, Olof (Rolf Lassgård) has lived alone on his family's farm, with only his dog for companionship. Illiterate and still a virgin at the ripe age of 40, Olof knows very little about life. Much of what he does know he's taken on faith from his friend Erik (Johan Widerberg, son of director Bo Widerberg), a cocky, loud-mouthed gravedigger with a greased-back DA and wrap-around shades. Erik spent two years in Memphis, Tenn., with the Swedish merchant navy, and thinks he knows all there is to know about the world — or at least about Elvis Presley. But as much as Olof depends on his friend, Erik is no substitute for a wife. So Olof screws up his courage and puts a carefully worded ad in the local paper: "Lonely farmer... Seeks young lady housekeeper. Photograph appreciated." Of the few respondents, one in particular grabs Olof's attention: a striking blonde (Helena Bergström) in white gloves and a smart, neatly tailored suit. Her name is Ellen, and she's hardly anyone's idea of a farmer's housekeeper, but when she accepts the unglamorous position without even inquiring about her wages, Olof is too delighted to be even the slightest bit suspicious. Ellen proves a formidable housekeeper who also helps out in the fields and whips the farm's finances into shape. But when she starts pressuring Erik to return the money he's borrowed from Olof, Erik resolves to find out what a woman like Ellen is doing in a place like this. Based on the H.E. Bates short story "The Little Farm," and written and directed by British expat Colin Nutley, this warm, old-fashioned love story unfolds with few pretensions; Nutley and his superb cast go straight for the heartstrings and give them a nice little tug. There's a balmy, midsummer dreaminess to this simple tale; the winding country lanes and overripe strawberries are all bathed in a golden, late-afternoon glow that leaves one nostalgic for a place few have actually been. The only serious misstep here is the music: Not only is Paddy Maloney's celtic-influenced soundtrack wholly inappropriate for the setting, it's far too reminiscent of James Horner's slushy TITANIC score to do this far more modest film the justice it deserves. (In Swedish, with English subtitles.)

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