Euphoria is the latest collaboration between Swedish director Lisa Langseth and Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander, who had her breakthrough in Pure (2011) and also starred in Hotel (2013), both directed by Langseth. Now the two have teamed up again for Langseth’s English-language debut, which is about the complex relationship between two sisters and a fast-approaching deadline to reconcile.
Vikander stars as Ines, a New York-based artist who is arriving at the airport for a reunion with her sister, Emilie, played by Eva Green. As we come to realise throughout the film, the sisters have had a strained relationship, becoming estranged over the last few years. At first, though, we hear that Ines’s career as an artist has taken a turn for the worse, and that could be the reason she has bothered to see her sister. Emilie has planned the holiday and kept everything from Ines, only describing it as a trip to ‘the most beautiful place in the world’. If the destination sounds suspicious, Emilie is even more so. She overspends on a hotel room and treats her sister to a lobster dinner with champagne, even if that does end in her vomiting. Up until here, Langseth does an excellent job keeping us intrigued in what exactly is Emilie’s agenda without revealing anything.
When they arrive at their mystery destination, an estate somewhere in the European countryside, Ines learns that Emilie has been struggling with cancer for three years, and upon learning it’s terminal, she has decided to end her life. And this estate is not some holiday retreat; it’s a destination for assisted suicide. For Ines, what follows is an initial shock, and then horrified disgust over Emilie’s decision to spend the last six days of her life in this location, eating the food their mother used to make and talking through their family drama. The majority of the film, then, listens as these two sisters converse, fight, argue, and try to find reconciliation before the six days are up and Emilie ends her life.
Euphoria is a drama that deals with the extremely sensitive topic of voluntary euthanasia, but it is not limited to this film, nor does it try to establish a position on the argument. Rather, this film is about the two sisters and the conversations between the two. As they discuss their family, we learn that their parents had a nasty divorce when they were young, and their mother never got over it. Emilie remained with their heartbroken mother, but Ines left as soon as she was old enough, wanting to make something of her life. This has left Emilie feeling bitter, cheated, and likes to remind her sister of this at every chance. On the other hand, Ines is frustrated that her mother and sister were so caught up in emotions and prefers to show a cold, hard exterior with a cynical approach to life.
Overall, despite the A-list cast, Langseth’s Euphoria does not deliver on ambition. As this is a film about the conversations between two sisters, it is the script that warrants the most attention, and it is the script that truly fails. Vikander has been given full range and complexity in her character, and that allows her to explore a variety of feelings, reactions, and develop the story according to Ines. Despite the fact that Eva Green probably gives the best performance, particularly in the climactic screen, she is left so little wriggle room, and we never really understand her side of the story. Disappointingly, she comes across as whiny, melodramatic, and annoying, while Ines comes across as the smart one, the sister who left the emotional world of her mother and sister to try and create a new, successful life for herself. Other actors Charlotte Rampling, who plays Emilie’s carer, and Charles Dance, who breathes much-needed life into the film as an eccentric millionaire ending his final days in style (perhaps one of my favourite characters from the festival films), work well with the script to bring life to their characters. Nonetheless, this really is Vikander’s film, and I feel it should be said again, but Eva Green was incredible in the final scenes.
This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia.
- Directed by Lisa Langseth
- Produced by Patrik Andersson, Frida Bargo, Charles Collier & Alicia Vikander for B-Reel Films & Vikarious Productions / Written by Lisa Langseth
- Starring Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair), Eva Green (Casino Royale), Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia) & Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)