Oscar, a 12-year-old fragile and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl he befriends, who moves into his building. When Oscar discovers that Eli is a vampire it does not deter his increasing feelings and confused emotions of a young adolescent. When Eli loses the man who protects and provides for her, and as suspicions are mounting from her neighbors and police she must move on to stay alive. However when Oscar faces his darkest hour, Eli returns to defend him the only way she can.
The enduring popularity of the vampire myth rests, in part, on sexual magnetism. In Let the Right One In
, Tomas Alfredson's carefully controlled, yet sympathetic take on John Ajvide Lindqvist's Swedish bestseller-turned-screenplay, the protagonists are pre-teens, unlike the fully-formed night crawlers of HBO's True Blood
or Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight
(both also based on popular novels). Instead, 12-year-old Oskar (future heartbreaker Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) enter into a deadly form of puppy love. The product of divorce, Oskar lives with his harried mother, while his new neighbor resides with a mystery man named Håkan (Per Ragnar) who takes care of her unique dietary needs. From the wintery moment in 1982 that the lonely, towheaded boy spots the strange, dark-haired girl skulking around their outer-Stockholm tenement, he senses a kindred spirit. They bond, innocently enough, over a Rubik's Cube, but little does Oskar realize that Eli has been 12 for a very long time. Meanwhile, at school, bullies torment the pale and morbid student mercilessly. Through his friendship with Eli, Oskar doesn't just learn how to defend himself, but to become a sort of predator himself, begging the question as to whether Eli really exists or whether she represents a manifestation of his pent-up anger and resentment. Naturally, the international success of Lindqvist's fifth feature, like Norway's chilling Insomnia
before it, has inspired an American remake, which is sure to boast superior special effects, but can't possibly capture the delicate balance he strikes here between the tender and the terrible. --Kathleen C. Fennessy