Review: Underdog – Svenskjävel (2014)


Director: Ronnie Sandahl | 97 minutes | drama | Actors: Bianca Kronlöf, Henrik Rafaelsen, Mona Kristiansen, Anders T. Andersen, Erland Bakker, Petronella Barker, Naomi Emeilie Christensen Beck, Jenny Ellegård, Gizem Erdogan, Joacim Fougner, Tuva Marie Halvorsen, Thorbjørn Harr, Kyrre Hellum, Andreas Kundler, Simon Lay, Erik Lennblad, Adam Lundgren, Bernhard Ramstad, Håkon Ramstad, Mai Lise Rasmussen, Anne Ryg, Mia Saarinen, Torunn Lødemel Stokkeland, Lars Sundsbø, Silje Osmundsen Tveit, Danny Van Duong, Trine Wiggen, Thomas Øyjordsbakken

Displacement is a widespread phenomenon. Anyone who moves from the countryside to the city will have to deal with it. Anyone who leaves Africa for Europe will have to deal with it. Even those who move from relatively poor Sweden to rich Norway will have to deal with it. This displacement is accompanied by homesickness and the longing for a safe, warm nest. Especially with those who take the plunge on their own.

Like Dino (Bianca Kronlöf), a tough Swedish girl who is going to try her luck in Oslo. Dino comes from a dysfunctional family and has a history of being a heavy drinker. In Oslo she looks for the company of peers, she lives with them in a communal building. When she starts babysitting as a side job in the house of restaurant owner Steffen, Dino starts to itch. Steffens wife works in Africa, so the position of lady of the house is temporarily vacant. Moreover, the man of the house is in a big midlife crisis.

‘Underdog’ (leave the beautiful Swedish title ‘Svenskjävel’ untranslated) shows what happens when Dino settles into the family. The drama focuses mainly on her relationship with Steffen and his (almost) adult daughter Ida. This remains fascinating because you are never sure what exactly Dino is looking for: a safe place, a new love or secretly something else. And what exactly does Ida feel for the intruder?

Although ‘Underdog’ fits in well with the Scandinavian dramatic tradition, it contrasts somewhat with its contemporaries. It lacks the psychological depth of ‘Turist’ and the dramatic impact of ‘Oslo August 31’. But what it lacks most of all is originality: everything we see here we have seen more often and better. What also does not cooperate is that the strong playing Bianca Kronlöf is actually a bit too beautiful for the role of a depressed tough chick. Her unusual beauty ensures that looking away never works.

“Underdog” is a nice movie while it lasts. The characters are likeable and the denouement is acceptable. The imagination of a displaced young woman – displaced in every way – is believable and captivating. But a little more depth and originality wouldn’t have hurt here.

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