Let the Right One In (2008)

Sometimes I don’t quite know what to say about a film. The old tendency is to say: “It was good. I liked it.” And be done with it.  But that’s not enough. That’s never enough. Sometimes I don’t have much to say until I start writing. That’s the beauty of this blog: the process of writing brings out so much more in terms of the analytical process that goes into digesting a film after-the-fact. 

It was good. I liked it. I’m not sure exactly what I liked about it other than it tugs on the viewer’s heartstrings and makes the viewer identify with the female protagonist’s point of view, although she is the most violent and least ethical characters in the film. Now, I wrote just now that she was the least ethical. Well, yes, she is because she kills people and sucks their blood. But she is also the MOST ethical in the film because of how she selflessly takes care of her friend. You get the same feeling when watching The Lives of Others.  You don’t want to identify with the Stasi spy but you are pulled into it because he is both sides of the same coin: Good and Bad; therefore, balanced. Same thing with this movie: you identify with her because she, like Kenny Rogers, knows when to hold ’em….

The young girl, approximately age 12, is a vampire. Her name is Eli. The visual effects were sufficient for the film, and not over the top, and a few times the viewer is treated to a glimpse of Eli’s real age (maybe in her 60s). So the poor thing has been a vampire for probably almost 50 years. But, she’s stuck as a little girl (it’s hard not to think of Interview with a Vampire). That’s one of the things that makes you feel for her: the fact that she is mentally mature but not physically. The psychological toll that is being taken is probably excruciating. Perhaps that is why her companion at the beginning of the film is out doing the dirty work for her. The viewer can only guess who this person is: an old friend from her childhood, a brother, or someone else? But he’s old (in his 60s).  We’ll come back to this in a bit because clearly Eli needs someone to help her live.

Eli’s neighbor is Oscar and he’s a bit of a dweeb who doesn’t know how to stand up for himself so he gets beaten up a lot by the same old bullies. Eventually, Eli takes on the role of protectress and as the film closes, the viewer sees that Oscar and Eli are staying together. 

Because Eli helped Oscar with the bullies–I won’t reveal what happened but suffice it to say they won’t be bothering anyone else–Oscar clearly feels he owes her a major debt of gratitude.  And on the train in the last scene of the film, Oscar is sitting there tapping on a box (inside of which is Eli) using the morse code they started using earlier in the film.  While Eli protected Oscar in the only way she could, now Oscar is doing the same for her: by taking care of her. Is this love, or just friendship?  Is Oscar going to become the old man who was her companion earlier in the film?  Because he did some pretty gruesome things for Eli.

The film is both sad and happy: it’s good that Oscar didn’t have bullies anymore and that he finally had someone who loved him enough to help him. But it’s bad that in order for him to be free from his bullies, people had to die and now he may have signed away his life and freedom to take care of a perpetually-young 12-yr old vampire.  It’s good for Eli because she has someone to stay with and to take care of her.  But overall, their present and future reality is pretty grim because their relationship is founded on a mutual need for death.

But the other problem is that Oscar never learned to stick up for himself. He let someone else do it for him.  This is a problem in today’s world: we always try to rely on external things to justify or cope with incidents in our lives. But applying a vampire-salve on the wound of your bully problem is not going to fix your own mind and its ability to cope.  No, it’s not. It’s only going to mask the problem.  And another problem is that instead of trying to resolve the problem by having adults intervene with the bullying situation, Oscar opened up the stage for some murder most foul. This makes you think of other incidents when bullying went really wrong…Columbine, for instance. Those boys took lives because they were picked on, either because the adults didn’t care or because they didn’t feel confident enough to seek help from adults. 

So maybe this film is about the failure of adults to protect kids. 

The viewer, of course, has no idea how Eli became a vampire but clearly she was just a kid and someone wasn’t doing their job taking care of her.

Yeah, let’s blame it on the adults.

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