The Girl ★★★★½

This remarkable, refreshingly different, and artistically ambitious Swedish film tells a compelling and affecting coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old girl (Blanca Engström) who ends up alone during the summer of 1981. The resourceful girl does not seem to mind having to take care of herself; in fact, she seems to enjoy her solitude most of the time.

One of the strengths of "The Girl" lies in how well the film conveys the weirdness and puzzling aspects of the adult world as seen through the eyes of a child. There are a few instances of unsubtle symbolism—tadpoles becoming frogs, at least one of which eventually escapes from the makeshift aquarium, and the girl’s fear of jumping from the top of a diving tower—but those scenes have only a marginal negative impact on my overall impression of the movie.

Engström plays the nameless girl tremendously well, consistently hitting all the right notes in a natural, seemingly effortless way; it is difficult to believe that she has never actually acted in a movie before. Tova Magnusson-Norling and Vidar Fors deliver very good performances in the roles of Anna, the girl’s aunt, and Ola, respectively.

In his feature-film directorial debut, Fredrik Edfeldt wisely opts for a restrained and sensitive approach to the nuanced screenplay, written by Karin Arrhenius, and he clearly has a knack for visual storytelling. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s ("Let the Right One In") exquisite, poetic cinematography—for which he rightfully won a Guldbagge Award—and Dan Berridge’s atmospheric music, together with the deliberate pace, effectively set the tone for the picture and also establish a dream-like mood that makes it even easier to appreciate "The Girl". The period feel is more or less perfectly realized thanks to great attention to detail.