The fourth film from Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt, Jimmie is a stripped back, intimate film that sees Ganslandt star alongside his son, Hunter, as a father and son forced to flee war-torn Sweden in search of a safer country on the other side of Europe. The story is very similar to the situation Europe experienced in 2015 when millions left their countries to search for a better life elsewhere, except instead of seeing Arabs or Africans, we are seeing white Swedes. The premise has stirred some mix reactions, looking past the political themes is a film about a father and son forced into the worst situation imaginable, and how a child, too young to process what is happening, sees what is going on.

In the film, Sweden has been shaken by unrest, with constant explosions, gunfire, and riots. The cities have turned into battlefields, and attacks are now part of everyday life. After Jimmie’s mother disappears in the war zone, his father decides to flee Sweden and head to a different country much further south. They set off on foot in search of a new home, occasionally meeting other Swedes making the same trek, and winding up in many of the dangerous situations real refugees face. They rest in a garbage site, get verbally tormented by youths, find temporary shelter in refugee camps, and have to take boats across bodies of water.

Some critics have accused the film of ‘whitesplaining’ or using real people’s struggles incorrectly, but I found it to be a very effective film. With the constant news stories of refugees travelling across Europe, it’s very easy to become jaded and dismissive of the typical depiction of the refugee, and by switching the image to a young blonde Swedish child, it forces a new confrontation and a new perspective on the issue. But this is not the point of the film; it’s about a father and son in the worst imaginable situation, and for that it is effective.

This is a technically well-made film. The score and sound design work well, occasionally shutting out, as though to portray Jimmie’s wandering mind. Also, by choosing his son as the lead actor, Ganslandt is able to direct a four-year-old (with an understandably short attention span) in a way that allows us to witness real emotions, real reactions, and the intimacy of the film does create an emotional investment in Jimmie. Måns Månsson, a well-known Swedish cinematographer and director, mostly uses close-ups of Jimmie’s face, and very often we are unsure of what situation Jimmie is in, or where exactly he is. And that is the point of the film; a four-year-old in a difficult situation is not fully aware of the severity of it. A lot of the camerawork is also shaky, furthering our sense of uncertainty. The opening and closing shots particularly stand out.

A lot of Jimmie’s merit is held by the intimacy of the film; Ganslandt and his son are the two figures we see the most. Their close relationship is not made this such a great film to watch, and it also allowed for a somewhat controversial topic to be made very human.

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.