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Under the Sun

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Under the Sun

Starring: Helena Bergstrom, Rolf Lassagard
Director: Colin Nutley
Rated: NR
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Foreign, Drama, Romance

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 for teenagers.

Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes

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