Review by Steve Rhodes|
3 stars out of 4
Colin Nutley's UNDER THE SUN (UNDER SOLEN) is a sweet and touching story of
first love. This Swedish movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best
foreign film in 2000, but lost to ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. For my money, UNDER
THE SUN is easily the better of the two. Told with impeccable honesty, the
script by Johanna Hald, David Neal and Colin Nutley, based on the H.E. Bates
novel "The Little Farm," concerns a middle-aged farmer and virgin who goes
in search of female companionship after his mother dies, leaving him alone.
In a compelling, straightforward performance, Rolf Lassgård plays Olof, the
large, beefy farmer. Although some might see him as ruggedly handsome, most
would call him homelessly plain. In order to secure a housekeeper for his
remote farm, he takes out a simple newspaper ad: "Lonely farmer, 39, own
car. Seeks young lady housekeeper." He comes back to the newspaper office
to add one last line: "Photograph appreciated."
With just two responses, Olof chooses the only one to send a photograph.
Putting on an awkwardly fitting suit and tie, he goes to meet Ellen, played
with grace by Helena Bergström, who looks a bit like a movie star from the
1950s, when the story is set. Dressed to the nines in a blue suit and hat,
she looks like she is applying for a secretarial position in a modern office
building rather than a cleaning job on a fly-infested farm.
Actually, the farm may be primitive, but it looks quite inviting. With Jens
Fischer's golden-tinted cinematography and Paddy Moloney's soothing music,
the Norwegian tourist board should set up a booth in the theater lobby.
Bookings for Norwegian tours should be brisk afterwards.
UNDER THE SUN goes for naturalness where other movies might try for bits of
sensationalism to ignite the viewers used to Hollywood dramatics. Rather
than throwing himself at Ellen, Olof worships her from afar. It is she who
makes the first move, a little kiss, which causes him to jump away. In
contrast to Olof, who treats women with so much respect that he's afraid to
touch them, his younger friend, Erik (Johan Widerberg), brags about having
had hundreds of women. Erik is only willing to say the dreaded "I love you"
if it quickly gets something in return. Needless to say, Erik is suspicious
of Ellen's motives.
The one mystery that keeps nagging at the viewers and at Erik is what an
attractive 33-year-old woman like Ellen would find in Olof. The answer to
this question isn't quite the shocker that many might expect, but it sets up
a touching and satisfying ending to a delightful little tale.
UNDER THE SUN runs 1:58. The film is in Swedish with English subtitles. It
is not rated but might be R for sexual situations and would be acceptable
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes