by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
We've all had encounters during our time in school of being a victim of bullying by other students. Some of us have managed to handle it in a healthy way, some of us not so much. But none have handled it quite like ALENA. In the character-titled film, the teenage girl, played authentically and beautifully by Amalia Holm, is out of nowhere instantaneously enrolled into an elite boarding school where fitting in is going to be more challenging than thought to be. One popular girl by the name of Filippa, played by Molly Nutley, and her friends begin to brutally harass Alena. Until a mysterious new girl by the name of Josephin appears, befriending her and taking her down a more extreme path. However that doesn't sway Alena to stick up for herself, so Josephin thus takes matters into her own hands to protect her seemingly new friend. What I thought was real clever in the writing and execution is from there on you learn more about the friendship between Josephin and Alena and the connection they share from the past, until it kind of confuses you. But in a way that diminishes the storytelling or saying that they didn't do a good job. It just means that the writers now know more than you, and you in turn have to pretty much decide for yourself what is going on. I had my theories, but just when I think I have it figured out, it brings me back in a loop to where I first started. What I didn't even know was that this was first a graphic novel! What?! The way in which this story was told felt like something new! So kudos to the writers, Kerstin Gezelius, Alexander Onofri, and co-written by the director himself Daniel di Grado! They managed to pull it off and spawn a film adaptation in a fresh way that commented on teenage bullying, insecurities, hormones and sex, guilt, suicide, love, friendship. In a big way I found this film to be a tragic tale about all of that. All the girl cast in this picture were tremendous! There were some truly disturbing moments that I have to give credit to those girls for really going for it in their scenes!
There was a moment where we see the main bully Filippa get in major trouble and afterwards we see her alone and weeping. And not in a "I got in trouble and didn't get my way" kind of way, which I have to say I made the mistake of thinking at first watch of the movie. But after giving it some thought I realized that 1.) Her popularity and attention she got from everyone is ALL this girl had going for her, which is in itself, tragic! 2.) For the first time ever, her father, who up until that point let her do whatever she wanted and gave her everything, had taken all of that away from her. Her father, whom by the way, along with ALL of the parents, are never around. We never see them and Flilippa's father conducts all of his fatherly duties over the phone and from a different country it seems! So now that her popularity is gone, her position on the La Cross team is stripped away from her - Who is this girl? But instead of focusing on Filippa, we focus on the fact that she is trying to find out who Alena really is and the reason she is doing it is to discredit her and gain her power back. All the while we are already finding out a bit about Alena, Josephin, their past, and Alena's budding relationship with fellow student Fabienne, played by Felice Jankell. But what makes the story of Alena tragic, for me, is that Fabienne is the only other person, the only other girl her own age that really loves and cares about her. I saw Fabienne as Alena's shot at salvation and a future for a good life. This film had such solid performances and had a great dark story to tell, the writing was well constructed, Daniel's direction was very much on point. His decisions to give what away at what point, or what not to give away was what made it all work! So! Who is Josephin? Well, in the end I will urge you to give it a gander on Shudder! Until then, check out the trailer below!