by Hope Madden
A baby left in a cemetery grows up to search for answers. Why was she abandoned in such a place, wrapped in a blanket covered in satanic markings and wearing an inverted cross? She discovers her parents were in a Norwegian Black Metal band.
So, to be honest, that explains it. Common practice, probably, and yet Hunter (Alicia von Rittberg) wants to know more.
Wait, will there be Norwegian Black Metal in Alex Herron’s Leave? Nice!
Herron, bringing writer Thomas Moldestad’s mystery to the screen, pits what you think you know about good against evil as he uproots a New Englander for Norway’s shores and answers.
Von Rittberg’s American accent is spotty, but the performance isn’t weakened by it. Her vulnerable but determined performance ably captures Hunter’s existential dilemma. She’s polite, slightly needy, capable but a little desperate. And the smiling faces she finds may or may not really be her friends.
These faces belong to rock stars (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and schizophrenics (Morten Holst), spoiled cousins (Herman Tømmeraas) and clingy aunts (Ragnhild Gudbrandsen).
Herron’s atmosphere makes the safe look seedy and the dangerous appear benign, but there is more depth to the tale than that. Yes, every character is a little slower on the uptake than they should be. And yet, somehow – thanks mostly to the film’s understatement – you don’t disbelieve any of the characters. Stig R. Amdam delivers a particularly nuanced turn as the family patriarch.
There are interesting themes here concerning patriarchy and “Christianity”, but Herron doesn’t belabor the point. His film is rarely showy, and even at its most obvious this light touch keeps it engaging.
Still, I think I was promised Norwegian Black Metal.