Directed by Alexis Almstorm who is known for drama and thrillers like Top Dog (2020), Pink Cloud Syndrome (2018) and Mazda (2015), the film Vinterviken or JJ+E is an adaptation of a novel of the same name. The novel was earlier adapted to a film Winter Bay all the way back in 1996 which stared David Tainton and Lina Englund as the two main characters John-John and Elisabeth.
JJ+E is an adaptation of the novel Vinterviken
The film is a contemporary adaptation of the Swedish novel Vinterviken by Mats Wahl published in 1993. It follows the tale of two youngsters Elisabeth and John John who go to the same high school. They are, however, poles apart - economically, socially and culturally. Set in Stockholm in 2021, will the two overcome all the barriers and unite is what forms the crux of the story.
Another cliche boy meets the girl and falls in love, the film follows the story of John John and Elisabeth who belong to different strata of society but fall in love when they end up going to the same drama school. Elisabeth had met John John at her house when he saves her little sister who was drowning in a river.
When Elisabeth, who had lost her mother recently, meets him at the school again, she warms up to him. She's unaware that John John and his friends mug and rob people and that they had broken into her house too while she and her family were away. The film brings out the contrast of the two lives and beautifully portrays how Elisabeth feels more free and happy while she's with him and grounded with the responsibilities of taking care of her sister at home.
The entire film has a predictable narrative. The scenes of John-John losing a watch worth $200k that his friend stole and how he would get into trouble could be far-seeing. This isn't really expected of a Swedish film that is known for coming-of-age films that are way ahead of its times.
The climax was though slightly unpredictable but overtly dramatic (spoiler alert ahead). Even though a romantic film supposedly needs to end with a kiss, one wouldn't predict Elisabeth to rush after the police van that was taking John-John to prison. She blocks the police van and when she doesn't respond to the police officer, she gets arrested too, only to get in the van and kiss the guy.
The highlight of the film is its background score. The music especially in the scene where Elisabeth rides to the spot where John-John and other boys get arrested builds up the tension and drama in the sequence. The direction by Alexis Almstorm is commendable. A dark and dull tone that's used throughout the film, even though it is a romantic film, gives a hint at the darkness of the crime world and the impending troubles for the characters.
The actors did perform decently. Elsa hrn, who was labelled a shooting star by Dagens Nyheter, makes her debut into acting with the role of Elisabeth in the film. She manages to pull her character off while Swedish-Moroccan actor Mustapha Aarab who plays John-John acted well as a guilt-ridden teenager.
If you are a die-hard fan of romantic films, you may give it a try but it's not recommended.
(The film is currently streaming on Netflix.)