Garden Lane / Trädgårdsgatan

Garden Lane is a complicated family drama and coming-of-age story that explores the childhood of Eric (Emil Algpeus & Lukas Monikoff) and Elin (Nike Ringqvist & Linda Molin) as they grow up under the supervision of Linda, Elin’s biological mother, and Peter, Eric’s biological father, who are dating and share a love for hard drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Directed by Olof Spaak, who partially funded the film through Kickstarter, Garden Lane is a well-written, intimately directed story of how different children view their childhoods and how struggling adults try their best to raise children.

The film is about Eric and Elin, who meet up as adults to attend a funeral. They start to reminisce about a difficult period in their childhood where they lived together for a few months under the supervision of their drug-addicted parents, Linda and Peter. Much of the film is then told as a flashback, as we watch Eric and Elin form a close bond under the strain put on them by having to live with drug-addicted parents. Elin, who is rather young, doesn’t quite understand the severity of the situation and instead sees it all as fun and loving. However, Eric, who is a pre-teen, understands what is happening and is heavily affected by the abuse he is forced to witness. It is also Eric who is suffering most in the present day, a direct result of this upbringing. The parents, Linda and Peter, travel around and Linda prostitutes herself while Peter uses the money to buy drugs. They spend a couple of months living in a farmhouse while Peter and Linda renovate the property, and it is here Eric and Elin witness abuse, drug use, and heavy drinking, both of them seeing it in different ways. As Linda, after a particularly violent incident, makes the decision to fix her life by quitting drugs and taking on a job as a cleaner, it leaves Peter desperate to rekindle the relationship and Eric caught in the middle, wanting to live in Linda and Elin’s better life, but forced to remain with his father.

At first, Garden Lane seems like a standard film told by a serious of flashbacks, revealing how these two adults managed to come out of a difficult situation. However, about halfway through the film we learn that so far the story has been told through the romanticised eyes of Elin, who saw her childhood as a wonderful time full of play, drinking soda, eating junk food, and bonding with her loving parents. When Eric starts to tell the story, we learn that their childhood was one of abuse, mistreatment, and almost abandonment. These parallel shifts in narrative create a powerful, effective message, showing how two children have been shaped by very different perceptions of events. While Eric is the clear pessimist, the final scenes, in which Elin corrects Eric’s telling of events, are heartbreaking and incredibly powerful.

While the ‘present day’ scenes lack a lot of depth and creative expression, Garden Lane sets itself up as a film about the past, and the flashback part of the story is incredible to watch. The script is largely based on producer Sofie Palage’s own childhood, but on their Kickstarter page they sought real-life stories from adults who suffered child abuse. The authenticity of the story shows in the script and on the screen, with director Olar Spaak and writer Gunnar Järvstad handling the heavy story with a lot of care. Garden Lane is effective, and I really hope it has a wider theatrical release.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 


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CategoriesIssue 22 Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.