Swede Caroline : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on April 19, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Classified 15 by the BBFC; Not yet rated by the MPA (contains language, a bloody image, pixilated nudity, and a little violence – equivalent to R). Running time: 97 minutes. Released by Deadbeat Studios.

In UK cinemas on 19 April. US release unknown as of this writing.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Swede CarolineI loved how serious and seriously absurd Swede Caroline is. As a mockumentary, it’s not designed for huge laughs and one-liners; instead, it gently leans into ever-increasing (but very restrained) exaggeration and uses more subtle attacks than full-on jokes to get its humor across. Centered on green thumb Caroline (Jo Hartley), her sheepish milquetoast neighbor Willy (Celyn Jones) and crazed conspiracy theorist buddy Paul (Richard Lumsden), Swede Caroline takes us into the world of… competitive vegetable growing. I know, right?!

Namely, we’re talking about marrows (that’s zucchini to us here in the States) the size and weight of a baby walrus. Originally on assignment to do a feature on pesticides, student filmmaker Kirsty (Rebekah Murrell) stumbles on the much more engaging world of competitive vegetable growing in Shepton Mallet, a town northeast of Glastonbury. It’s here where she sees Caroline’s prize marrow eliminated for a near-undetectable hairline crack, an instant disqualification that sends Paul around the bend, screaming profanities as he carts the marrow out of the competition tent.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Swede CarolineFrom there, we follow Kirsty and her camera crew as they shadow Caroline and her effort to get a shot at the title again. Providing the narrative thrust, her side work as a somewhat-assistant for a pair of kinky private investigators suddenly embroils her in something straight out of Paul’s conspiracy theory-addled mind. With Willy and Paul at her side, she investigates a break-in that results in her new marrow being stolen and her garden destroyed, but it starts them on a road full of hairy surprises and people jumping out of windows.

Directors Finn Bruce and Brook Driver (the latter of whom wrote the script) keep this farce as low-key and grounded as possible. They brilliantly avoid all sense of parody, maintaining strict realism and delighting in the largely absurd situation occurring to very down-to-earth people. There aren’t any pros at play here, which makes all of their knees-bent, running around, advancing behavior all the funnier. Even the villains are inept at being bad because they’re just normal people! This isn’t an outsize, larger-than-life yukfest; this is just life that went on a strange tangent and led to a hell of an adventure.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Swede CarolineAs our hero, Jo Hartley takes the lead with authority, carrying us through the wild events that transform her from everyday woman into Columbo (her word, not mine) in a matter of weeks. Hartley makes Jo think, not just simply react; this thoughtfulness at each word and action helps keep the film its muted quality, allowing for Paul’s more ridiculous outbursts and the overly gentle Willy (who’s hiding an oddly hilarious secret) to provide more of the comedy. Celyn Jones and Richard Lumsden are note-perfect as the angel and devil on Jo’s shoulders; we all know guys like them, too easily pushed over or being the guy who’s doing the pushing. That they’ve actually stumbled upon something that brings them all together to be at their best, and this trio of actors and characters make straight up magic as they unravel this spate of weirdness.

Think if Hot Fuzz’s dynamic duo were nowhere near the strange deaths occurring in Sandford, Gloucestershire, and the only people seeing the threads and following them were the muttering farmer, the idiot journalist, and Aaron A. Aaronson. Swede Caroline takes the “big conspiracy in a small town” trope and runs amok with it, but only so far; the rest of it relies on laughs generated by how basic regular people are. They don’t run around with guns and toss pithy lines before drilling holes in a guy with hot lead; they break things because they’re clumsy, they make decisions that might seem weird (like the film implying Jo gets freaky with the kinky detective couple), and they’re horrible at car chases. All of this makes Swede Caroline one of the most low-key hilarious films in recent history, where the mundane is gloriously elevated into high comedy.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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