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There Should be Rules – Manchester International Film Festival Review

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By Ruth Hudson

There Should Be Rules stars Anna Hägglin , Lo Salmson, Ludvig Särnklint, Kodjo Akolor (Welcome to Sweden, Hitta Bort), Fredrik Gunnarsson (Wallander, The Bridge) and Annika Hallin (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Morden, Millennium). In this film, Swedish filmmaker, Linda-Maria Birbeck, has artistically woven together a comical tale about three adolescent friends who desperately attempt to fit into the adult world once Mirijam, played by Lo Salmson, begins an affair with a man twice her age.

Two free-spirited 14-year-olds, Mirijam and Mia, played by  Anna Hägglin, begin commentating hilariously on their fascination with the male anatomy. With Mia persuading her alcoholic father to buy them booze and the girls flirting with the village paedophile for cigarettes, Birbeck injects a nostalgic aspect into the film in which viewers are granted their fix to feel young again.

On the day of her birthday, Mia, residing with her father, shows an inscrutable facade during a bid to reconcile over Apollo 13. But as her father falls into another drunken abyss, we soon learn that there is no apparent male role model in the lives of any of the characters. Instead, they rely on each other as friends. And so, to discourage Mirijam from continuing her affair, Mia and Karl, played by Ludvig Särnklint, embark on a mission to sabotage it. Although, the rather perplexed notion of paedophilia is never clearly addressed- given that no consequences come from Per, played by Aleksandar Gajic, exploiting an underage girl- There Should be Rules isn’t about paedophilia as such. It is about how we come to learn of these things as we grow up.

When Mia falls out of a tree in a bid to spy on Mirijam and Per, she is confronted by her best friend and from there, she plummets into a downward spiral of self-destruction. There is something poignantly symbolic when she dismantles her hideout, as if to burn the bridges of her childhood and make room for the adult world which offers no place of safety.

Mirijam’s moment of realization of the wrongdoings in her life comes about when she sneakily enters Per’s home. As he returns, she is faced with his two children staring at her in her underwear. And so, her rule number one becomes: friends will always be there for you, but relationships come and go.

This coming-of-age treasure ticks all the independent film boxes. With references to Thelma and Louise and echoes of the 90s film, Slacker, the writer aims to focus on stories based on characters and less on drama. Mia’s alcoholic father and her mother’s presumed suicide strengthen the depth of the character, who we empathize with and idolize for her “never wanting to be ordinary.” The artistic value of the film leaves viewers with another pertinent message: we should strive to be unique as opposed to fitting in with the crowd.

Given how the music and visual cinematography captures the liminal beach setting, the characters decipher what is natural, granted their complex home environments. There Should Be Rules is an American companion piece to Ghost World, not just because the lead actress has a striking resemblance to Thora Birch, but because this film is nothing short of cool.

For more information about Manchester Film Festival (MANIFF) see their website.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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