Kid Svensk (Aavan meren tällä puolen) aka That Special Summer
The extreme highs and lows of a Finnish child growing up in 1980s Sweden are explored with both spunk and compassion in Nanna Huolman’s Kid Svensk (That Special Summer). Following the particular children’s logic that neatly seems to divide everything in either the best or the worst of times, the film nicely illustrates the growing pains of a lovable little girl while also touching on larger problems associated with immigrant children and single-parenting. The film’s sun-drenched cinematography by Rauno Ronkainen also makes Europe’s extreme north look like a particularly kid-friendly summer destination. Kid Svenk was released in Finland in March as Aavan meren tällä puolen and was released in Sweden today (Friday).
Huolman’s partially autobiographical story feels particular enough to make the audience quickly forget the raft of Swedish films dealing with immigrant issues (the films of Josef Fares, the recent Förortsungar / Kidz in da Hood) or the many Swedish coming-of-age stories ranging from Pippi Langstocking to the films of Lukas Moodysson -- at least when he still deemed traditional narratives worthwhile. The film’s setting in the 1980s, subtly evoked through costume and production design, feels appropriately nostalgic but also clearly lived-in and is always kept in the background in favour of the more universal aspects of the story.
Kid (Mia Saarinen) is the only child of a hard-working Finnish mother Ester (Milka Ahlroth) in 1984 Göteborg. As a single immigrant mother, she struggles to get by. The fact that she hardly understands any Swedish does not help; at one point she has to take her 12-year-old daughter, who goes to a Swedish school, to her employer to have him explain to her she has been fired. To forget everything and -- at least in her mind’s eye if not in her daughter’s -- perhaps start anew, the two will spend the summer months in Finland with Ester’s Finnish friend and fellow immigrant Sirkka (Mari Rantasila) and her 13-year-old son Jamppe (Jim Rautiainen). Along the way, they hope to make some money with a rally pizza place they want to erect for the summer with the help of Marku (Timo Tuominen), an Italy-based racer who used to romance Ester before she met Kid’s father.
While closely sticking to the traditional narrative structure of coming-of-age stories, the way in which writer-director Huolman juggles all her elements feels natural and true – perhaps because she has lived through many of the experiences herself. Shifts in tone depend largely on the mood swings of Kid and thus feel coherent and natural.
A natural complicity is quickly established between Kid and Jamppe, who have their own secret language: Swedish (the back and forth between Swedish and Finnish might give translators something of a headache), while Kid’s homesickness for her adopted country is amplified by her self-imposed duty to create a radio report about her visit to Finland for a Göteborg radio station and by her desperate need to do what all adolescents do: that is, the contrary of whatever their parents want them to do.
Acting from little Saarinen feels natural both in the sunshine and during the tantrums, and Ahlroth matches her every step on the way. Rautiainen inhabits the role of Kid's friend and possible boyfriend with aplomb, though his character could have been developed a bit more, much like his mother's.
Cinematography is the opposite of the cold colours Äideistä parhain (Mother of Mine), another story of a Finnish child caught between Finland and Sweden, or cinematographer Ronkainen's own work on Aku Louhimies's Paha Maa (Frozen Land) and Valkoinen kaupunki (Frozen City), which painted a particularly unwelcoming and hostile picture of Finland in winter. In Kid Svenk, however, it's summer all the way -- including the occasional gathering of menacing thunderclouds and the promise of sunshine just beyond.
Finnish/Swedish spoken language, subtitles in ENGLISH, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. DVD includes extras. Region 2 Pal dvd. Cover art in Finnish.