Review: UNDERDOG (Svenskjävel) and Australia's 2015 Scandinavian Film Festival

A quick primer in Scandinavian politics will help considerably before heading into Ronnie Sandahl’s debut feature: the richest nation in the region was Sweden, until they did very badly out of the GFC, while Norway’s economy boomed on North Sea oil. This reversal of fortune has led to an exodus of young unemployed Swedes, many of them into the previously sneered-at Norway.

Such is the case for Dino (Bianca Kronlof). She’s sent by her temping agency to the restaurant of former tennis champ Steffen (Henrik Rafaelsen), despite a broken arm leaving her useless for the position. However, she develops a rapport with Steffen’s youngest daughter, and is soon taken on as au pair while his somewhat estranged wife finishes up work contract in Africa. Over time, the Swede not only begins a sexual relationship with Steffen, but also begins to bond with his eldest daughter, who has a similar array of self-esteem issues.

Sandahl has created an understated but sometimes overly neat and occasionally predictable story, for which he draws solid performances from his cast. What it lacks in cinematic flair it makes up for with an authentic taste of regional relations, making it a fine inclusion for this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival.

UNDERDOG screens in Australia as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, which runs from 8 – 29 July. Session times vary between cities: consult for details.