Tag Archives: Noomi Rapace

Her Hidden Life

You Won’t Be Alone

by Hope Madden

To suppose that filmmaker Goran Stolevski is a fan of Terrence Malick seems fair. His tale of 19th century Macedonian witchery offers the same type of visual aesthetic, whispery voiceover and absence of dialog in much of Malick’s work, especially 2018’s A Hidden Life.

You Won’t Be Alone follows Neneva (Sara Klimoska), a teenager raised in isolation, hidden from the Wolf-eatress (Anamaria Marinca) who’s claimed her. Freed from hiding, the teen shapeshifter takes on different forms (Noomi Rapace, Felix Maritaud, Alice Englert) and learns of life.

The vast majority of the film’s spoken language comes in the form of Neneva’s thoughts via voiceover. Having grown up alone and unable to speak, Neneva’s language is disjointed and poetic, her musings untouched by traditional socialization.

These reflections are periodically punctuated by the bitter logic of her lifelong tormentor, the Wolf-eatress, whose own upbringing among the human race has left her horribly scarred, literally and metaphorically.

Sections of the film are quite lovely. Admirable performances all around help to keep you engaged. Klimoska’s physical performance reflects the primal beginnings of Neneva’s explorations. Rapace brings an awkward adolescence feel to the character’s early interpretations of normal human behavior. Englert carries the character into adulthood with quiet curiosity, never losing that animalistic inquisitiveness carried throughout the earlier performances.

Stolevski’s cast gives him all he could have hoped. Unfortunately, he doesn’t entirely deliver on his end. The story free floats, its style often overwhelming its substance. You feel every minute of its running time.

That’s not to say Stolevski’s approach is a failure, only that it’s taken too far. His fractured storytelling suits his purposes of exploring gender identity and the nature of humanity. He builds dread well and his fluid camera allows his tale to cast a spell.

The result is mainly entrancing, but too often frustrating.   

Animal Instinct


by Hope Madden

Among the many remarkable elements buoying the horror fable Lamb is filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson’s ability to tell a complete and riveting tale without a single word of exposition.

Not one. So, pay attention.

Rather than devoting dialog to explaining to us what it is we are seeing, Jóhannsson relies on impressive visual storytelling instincts, answering questions as they come up with a gravesite, a crib coming out of storage, a glance, a bleat.

His cast of three – well, four, I guess — sells the fairy tale. A childless couple working a sheep farm in Iceland find an unusual newborn lamb and take her in as their own child. As is always the way in old school fables, though, there is much magical happiness but a dire recompense soon to come.

Noomi Rapace is the stand-out, her character’s emotional arc from melancholy to longing to joy expressed physically as Maria goes about each day’s tasks. Hilmir Snær Guðnason’s tenderness as husband Ingvar offers a lovely balance while offering an intriguing change of pace for fairy tale archetypes.

Jóhannsson, making an astounding feature debut behind the camera, strikes a balance between reality and unreality, beginning with startlingly authentic farming scenes. He casts a spell with the ruggedly gorgeous scenery, the unending but mastered workload of the farm, and its isolation.

The rare dialog exchanges are meaningful but not obvious. When a brother shows up rather inauspiciously, conflict arrives with him, but even here the sly storytelling will keep you guessing while still giving you all you really need to know.

There is a cruelty in the justice meted out in old school fairy tales, and that element has generally been softened for modern sensibilities. Ariel didn’t get the prince, she turned into sea foam while he married another. The gods of yore weren’t swayed by compassion or sentimentality.

That’s another line Jóhannsson and his stellar cast walk perfectly: we love and root for this family, even as we recognize the selfishness and unwholesomeness beneath their joy.

Lamb is an absolutely gorgeous, entirely unusual and expertly crafted gem of a film. You should see it.

Secret Garden

The Secrets We Keep

by George Wolf

Anyone who saw the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo knows if you get on the wrong side of a score with Noomi Rapace, she’ll have no problem settling it.

As Maja in The Secrets We Keep, Rapace has a similar mindset. Settled into post-war Suburbia in an unnamed town, Maja and her physician husband Lewis (Chris Messina) run the local medical clinic while raising their young son, Patrick.

On one fateful afternoon, the Romanian-born Maja is shaken to her core by the sight of a man (Joel Kinnaman) she believes committed heinous war crimes against her and her family years before. After setting a successful trap, Maja kidnaps the man and holds him captive in her basement, finally detailing to Lewis the horrifying ordeal she has never spoken of.

Director and co-writer Yuval Adler sets an effective hook despite some forced visual cues (a literal bubble bursting, North by Northwest on a theater marquee). Rapace delivers the right mix of confused trauma, making Maja’s indecision between murder and interrogation ring true (much more so than the petite Rapace’s ability to maneuver the dead weight of Kinnaman).

Is the suburban hostage a Swiss immigrant named Thomas, as he claims, or is he the former Nazi Karl, whose war crimes haunt Maja’s dreams?

Adler seems to sense the need to distance the film from Death and the Maiden (and, to a lesser extent, Big Bad Wolves), but as events move further from the basement, an air of B-movie pulp emerges.

A visit from the neighborhood cop seems to exist only for contrived tension, while Maja’s burgeoning friendship with her captive’s wife (Amy Seimetz) and daughter can never quite move the shadow of secrets over the entirety of picket-fence Americana the way Adler intends.

And despite a terrific performance from Messina, Lewis lands as a frustrating and sometimes distracting presence. While Lewis’s struggle to believe Maja – even without a confession – is one of the film’s most resonant strengths, the bigger struggle concerns the film’s commitment to defining Maja on her own terms.

When it does commit, The Secrets We Keep rewards the investment. But when it cops out, there’s little here we haven’t already been told.