The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry
Directed by: Emil T. Jonsson
Written by: Björn Boström
Starring: Sissela Kyle, Christoffer Nordenrot, Jonas Nilsson
Short Film Review by: Corey Bulloch
The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry Review
(aka Mannen som inte ville gråta)
A charming and astute satire on empathy in our modern society, The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry explores the difference between genuine and superficial grief. After the death of the beloved actress, “Henrietta” sends shockwaves of sadness through an ad agency, the only one unaffected is illustrator Martin who instead finds amusement in a subsequent moment when someone drops some chocolates. Believing their co-worker to be a sociopathic monster after not publicly bawling his eyes out over a woman he’s never known, Martin is banished to the archives with star employee Jockum and isn’t allowed to leave until he cries.
Björn Boström’s script, adapted from a short story by Stig Dagerman is brilliant in how it frames the vanity of this work culture and its participants. ‘Henrietta’ isn’t mourned as a person, Sissela Kyle’s as Martin’s boss eulogises this actress only through her commercial appeal both for the ad agency and for the employee’s social media pages. The film is bookended by this idea that the lenses of our humanity all now have to be filtered through social media in pursuit of online attention. Though not to such a frightening extreme the film reminded me of Black Mirror’s Nosedive, in that our emotions only have value in this cynical consumer context for gratification. Director’s Emil T. Jonsson’s establishes this superficial theme so well, that when the legitimate emotions of Martin and then Jockum take centre stage it makes more of an impact.
The mise-en-scéne of the film offers interesting contrasts to the film’s themes and visuals. While Martin’s situation represents this bleak depiction of assimilation, The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry feels almost whimsical. Soft pastel colours and lighting, symmetrical furniture and scooters; these aren’t the bleak office blocks of Mike Judge or Ricky Gervais but somehow they feel even more soulless. It’s warm and inviting in the same way a cult can be, especially emphasised in the film’s final scene. Jonsson’s direction gives the film plenty of personality though, especially through its animated narrative device, where flashbacks are told through illustrations. These visuals exaggerate and express Martin’s imagination and its classic style is a nice juxtaposition with the live-action, enhancing them especially with Jockum’s story about a troubled time in his life.
The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry’s script is delivered wonderfully by Jonsson’s direction alongside the performances of Jonas Nilsson as Martin and Christoffer Nordentrot as Jockum. The supporting cast is also stellar in their brief moments (Kyle especially) but it's the authenticity Martin and Jockum find together that makes the film’s themes thrive. Nilsson has terrific body language as the quiet unassuming Martin, with his early scenes revolving on how befuddled he looks at what the fuss is all about. Nordentrot captures the classic overly enthusiastic co-worker that needs to give us space, Boström does well in building from familiar dynamics to make the comedy and drama grounded in this ridiculous setting.
We are free to grieve as we wish, whether it be privately or through lengthy social media posts, our shared empathy aches when we lose people. Whether they be family, strangers, or stars we saw on the silver screen, Jonsson’s film isn’t a memorandum on the correct way to mourn. Instead, The Man Who Wouldn’t Cry is a terrific satirical examination of the warped nature emotions are processed through social interactions both off and online.