Britt-Marie Was Here, directed by Tuva Novotny from the novel by Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove), is a new sports comedy. Hoping to be an uplifting crowd-pleaser, the film has some sweet and fun moments, but sadly lacks the magic that made the aforementioned Backman adaptation feel special.
The movie tells the story of a sixty-three-year-old woman who, having recently left her marriage, takes a job for which she is inexperienced as a coach for a young soccer team with big aspirations. On one hand, this is a pretty traditional underdog story about a group of people who must overcome the odds to achieve their dreams. However, perhaps more interestingly, the film is a tale of a woman experiencing an identity crisis.
Unfortunately, where the movie falls flat is that it is unable to strike a balance between these two storylines. The more dynamic and unique of the two storylines is the protagonist’s as she comes to terms with that chapter of her life ending. The sports storyline should have been used as the vector for her change, but instead, it ends up feeling dominant. As such, the film ends up being too all-over-the-place for its own good.
Tonally, the film is also a bit of a mixed bag. A Man Called Ove, which is also based on a novel by Backman, blends dark humor and heartwarming family drama very well. Britt-Marie Was Here aims to do the same thing but is largely unsuccessful. The cynicism of the protagonist is frequently overbearing and hard-to-stomach, and the sense of humor is minimal.
Ultimately, the audience will understand Britt-Marie’s cynicism because of the things that caused her to have that outlook on the world, and she does eventually get over it (as one would expect), but that doesn’t change the fact that the movie is surprisingly unpleasant. And for a film that wants desperately to be heartwarming, this isn’t the direction in which the movie needs to be heading.
The film is mostly unsuccessful on a technical level too. The visuals of the movie are bright and cheery, matching the heartwarming tone for which the movie is obviously aiming, but not matching the darker tone of what the film really is. The end result is a movie that feels inconsistent and confused as to what it wants to be.
That said, Pernilla August gives a very good performance as Britt-Marie. It’s just disappointing that she wasn’t given more to do. She is definitely quite charming and likable, managing to save the character of Britt-Marie from her cynical downfall. No one in the supporting cast is particularly memorable, but that is because August so often steals the spotlight.
There are some good moments in Britt-Marie Was Here, and Pernilla August’s strong performance keeps it from being unwatchable, but it doesn’t have the infectious energy that is should have had. More often than not, it feels like wasted potential.
Britt-Marie Was Here is now playing in theaters.