Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Directed by: #JimmyOlsson
Written by: #JimmyOlsson
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Fresh off the back of his multi award winning short 2ndClass (over 40 in fact) Swedish #filmmaker Jimmy Olsson now presents Alive, a wonderfully endearing film about one person’s simple longing for intimacy.
Viktoria (Johansson) is a disabled woman who spends most of her time with a number of live-in assistants but has a special relationship with Ida (Martin), theirs perhaps bordering on real friendship. After one day meeting Ida’s boyfriend Bjorn (Ödmann), Viktoria begins to yearn for the kind of intimacy she sees in their relationship but believes such things might be out of her reach. In an attempt to help lift Viktoria’s spirits, Ida decides to help her create a dating profile, but when Viktoria eventually ends up with a match, the gentleman’s own profile causes Ida to worry that he might not have Viktoria’s best interests at heart.
At the core of Alive lies a thought-provoking message that highlights society’s preconceptions and somewhat lamentable attitudes towards disabled people; too often sympathising without ever actually attempting to empathise.
But Olsson manages to put his audience in such a position that allows them to see the world through Viktoria’s eyes, and what they witness is a constant contrast of her frustrated life against the freedom non-disabled people take for granted. His use of moody themes, melancholic score and dimly lit settings all point to a filmmaker who has carefully thought about the overall gravitas and tone of his film which is great to see but it is all mixed with a certain level of some welcome levity in places.
What really helps the films significant message carry its weight is its two leads. Johansson’s honestly vulnerable portrayal captures all of Viktoria’s frustrations and anger at a world she feels a mere bystander to, which causes her at times to lash out at those around her, but still a woman full of gritty determination. Martin as the ever patient and compassionate Ida, who yes may be guilty of her own prejudices as we all are but always in the interest of Viktoria’s well-being, delivers a performance that not only carefully offsets Johansson’s but harmonises with it.
Ödmann’s role is smaller but still significant, Bjorn after all is the catalyst for Viktoria’s newfound resolve and does have one or two standout lines of wisdom, not to mention there is also a small appearance from Olsson himself as Viktoria’s gentlemen caller.
We, like Ida, might see Viktoria’s quest as one fraught with pitfalls and obstacles, a train racing down a broken track with inevitable results. But the stark lesson here is that disabled does not mean unable. There is little doubt that Olsson’s goal here is to take our expectations and completely subvert them, but rather than simply looking to pull the rug from under our feet, he instead seems to want to deliver a life affirming story that will lift you up and restore a little bit of our faith in humanity, something we could use a little more of these days.