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Behind Blue Skies

Himlen är Oskyldigt Blå - Behind Blue Skies
Hannes Holm, Sweden

Another coming-of-age tale, this one lacking the original voice of Boy, but it is still well made and engaging enough, despite some cinematic familiarities. Set in 1975 Sweden, Bill Skarsgård (yes, he is the son of international actor Stellan Skarsgård) stars as Martin, a middle class kid who is preoccupied with his home life, due to his father's alcoholism, which at its nearly nightly apex results in bursts of hatred and violence, mostly directed at his mother. But he is given a summer respite: his best friend and rather well-to-do parents are going to the island Sandhamn, off the central coast of Sweden, known for its posh yacht clubs. They say Martin can come with them, and they've even found him a summer job, working at one of the hotels, first as a general gofer and then a waiter. After an I-Am-Spartacus moment, he is fired by the manager for something he didn't really do. But before he can leave the island, that manager, a middle-aged pudgy preening playboy named Gösta (Peter Dalle) offers him a lift, which turns into a series of odd tasks, and gradually the naïve teenager realizes Gösta has his fingers in many schemes, from slot machines and strip clubs to prostitutes and, most importantly and dangerously, the smuggling of cocaine. Gösta is an odd duck, not a typical crimelord, and he takes a genuine liking to the boy. He does employ a couple of real mid-level hoods on his payroll, but he doesn't trust them they way he does young Martin.

Even after he learns of the depths of the criminality, Martin sticks around, partially because the money is good and he has a sort of responsibility he's never enjoyed before, but mostly it is because of one of the young waitresses at the hotel, Jenny (Josefin Ljungman). Their burgeoning romance is the true pull, but predictably you can only run on the wrong side of the law for so long before it catches up with you. Tonally it's more Summer of '42 than Carlito's Way, and while nothing original is going down, Skarsgård is compelling, the recreation of the 1970s is lovingly detailed, and the tidy conclusion (the story is based on true events) is actually refreshing in its straightforward simplicity.