(Above: Talented brothers Gustav, Bill and Alexander Skarsgård) Film critic Niclas Goldberg takes a look at Sweden's representation in the recent Oscar bid (it failed to nab a nomination).
Talent runs in the family—at least in the DNA of Swedish megastar Stellan Skarsgård. Bill Skarsgård is now the third famous son to be put on the map. In “Simple Simon” (“I rymden finns inga känslor”) he represented Sweden in the recent (failed) Oscar bid. After a few years with brothers Alexander and Gustaf on the front pages, Bill ruled the movie scene in Sweden last fall. In “Behind Blue Skies” (“Himlen är oskyldigt blå”) he plays a high school student with an alcoholic father, in "Simple Simon" a young man with Asperger's syndrome. An accurate translation of the film would be “In Space there are no feelings." But there are plenty of feelings around. Throughout this colorful romantic comedy a playfulness of fun cinematic expressions drives the story without losing speed. The score is rich, the energy high and Bill Skarsgård is exceptional.
True deligth of storytelling Skarsgård plays 18-year-old Simon whose life is turned upside-down when his brother Sam is dumped by his girlfriend. To make his life work, Simon needs structure. He is the one who has always taken care of Simon, making him food in the shape of circles and helping him understand humans. Wanting things to get back to normal, Simon gives himself one mission—to find Sam a new girlfriend. Unfortunately, Simon knows nothing about love and doesn’t understand emotions—but he has a scientifically foolproof plan.
The opening credits lay the ground for what's to be expected. Beyond Simon’s fascination of outer space, the movie evokes whimsies, wrapped around a true delight of storytelling. Simon doesn’t understand feelings like grief, love and anger, which can create chaos. Director Andreas Öhman reminds us of the gravity of Asperger's syndrome through Simon’s relentlessly compulsive behavior. He manages to approach a serious subject with both admiration and a light hand, without a deep psychological focus. Like “Rain Man” (1988) and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993) which were never disrespectful, neither is “Simple Simon.” Certain scenes have the cheering passion of a romantic comedy but don’t turn trivial. The effective set design fits perfectly with the cast but the film loses some power, partly due to underdeveloped characters and the over-ambition of making every scene a charm. But for all that “Simple Simon” is never anything less than a loving story and a gifted piece of filmmaking. We are certain to see more of the young Mr. Bill Skarsgård.
"Simple Simon," or as the Swedish title reads, "I rymden finns inga känslor," stars the youngest Skarsgård, Bill. The film was directed by Andreas Öhman.
Talent does indeed run in the family: Bill Skarsgård, center, flanked by his two acting brothers, Gustav and Alexander Skarsgård at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Los Angeles in January. Photo: Kerstin Alm