A dark Swedish three-parter, When Darkness Falls makes up in gritty energy and social conscience what it lacks in structural cohesion. It doesn't so much weave together its three stories about how people deal when threatened; it simply runs with each one for 10 minutes before skipping across to the next. It's hyperlink cinema (Magnolia, Syriana, Crash) without the hyperlinks.
This, plus the fact that one of the stories is dramatically much more compelling than the other, will limit audiences, especially outside Nordic territories, where the news value of the three plotlines - all based on true stories - should translate into solid, if not spectacular, box-office.
Director Anders Nilssen has done everything from made-for-export B-movies to more serious cop thrillers like Zero Tolerance: in one way, his most 'artistic' project to date benefits from his action past.
When Darkness Falls has a verve that gives issues like honour killings or domestic violence a real dramatic urgency, imp acting on itsvisual style, with extreme close-ups and fast reaction cutting.
But Nilssen works in broad brushtrokes, and there's a slapdash, occasionally vulgar edge to some of the finer details. The energy and anger of Ken Loach is often present here, but not his psychological finesse.
Carina (Lia Boysen) is a successful TV journalist whose husband regularly batters her; despite this, she persuades herself that she is still loves him, even that its her fault.
Leyla (Oldoz Javidi), is a member of an immigrant family who have not fully adopted Western ways when it comes to female emancipation, as her sister Nina discovers when she attempts to flirt.
The third story - dramatically weaker and more tenuous - deals with a nightclub bouncer and his boss, who are threatened by three psychotic criminals.
Violence begets more violence is the film's oft-flagged message, unless one of those affected by the spiral ends it through an act of supreme courage. All fine, but When darkness falls needs more subtle interweavings and it's hard not to wish that Leyla and Nina's had not been a single, film, packing.
This honour-killing plotline not only packs the greatest dramatic punch, it's also easily the most subtly developed of the three stories, for example in how it shifts the audience's view of the girl's mother.
Trust Film Sales