Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let Me In

It's a crying shame we can't talk about Let Me In without discussing its Swedish forebear, Let The Right One In [Lat den ratte komma in], along with a predictable whinge about why people won't just read the damn subtitles. For on its own, the American adaptation is rather remarkable. It's an incredibly tense, artfully constructed and beautifully acted portrait of loneliness, nascent love and manipulation. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the choice fodder for local school bullies, while on the home-front he must contend with an absent father and mother whose coping mechanism entails passing out with a bottle of wine. In a deft move, director Matt Reeves never shows the face of Owen's mum, nor do we ever meet the father. He is well and truly on his own, until late one night he spies a young girl and her father moving in to the apartment block. Owen soon encounters the decidedly different Abby (Chloe Moretz) and their fumbling attempts at a friendship are set against a growing number of mysterious murders in the neighbourhood.

So, does Let Me In stand up to Let The Right One In? Does it matter either way? Yes, and, unavoidably, yes, but that's not to say fans mightn't end up impressed by Reeves' remake. For one it's superbly shot by up-and-coming Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser. After an impressive run last year with Bright Star, The Boys are Back and Last Ride, Fraser's talents have translated to Hollywood magnificently. His use of focus here is as striking as it is disturbing. Similar praise goes to fellow Aussie Smit-McPhee, who gives a deeply nuanced, achingly resonant performance as the lonely, then smitten Owen. Moretz doesn't fare quite so well in comparison, mainly because Reeves has her playing more sweet and girly than Lina Leandersson's darkly androgynous characterisation as the original Eli.

Reeves' also folds in a Romeo & Juliet reference that isn't necessary, but is nonetheless nicely executed. He markedly fleshes out the policeman role, which allows Elias Koteas to lead the audience into the story and makes the climatic scene all the more affecting. And lastly, Richard Jenkins absolutely owns the role of Abby's 'father'. He is the very embodiment of resignation, loyalty and desperation. So, save for some surprisingly sub-par special effects (you expect more from the man behind Cloverfield), Let Me In is not only a worthy adaptation, but a touching treatise on burgeoning love that also manages to be utterly, viscerally, haunting.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 14 October 2010

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