A cold, sadness seeps through the whole of PHOENIX, Camilla Strom Henriksen masterpiece about dysfunctinality in a family unit. This sadness is beautifully handled. Capturing the destructive power of depression and psychological breakdown. Magnetically drawing you into the world that is a bleak teenage nightmare, which is often so true. At first you read much of the press and critical coverage with raised eyebrows. I did. PHOENIX is exceptional, brilliant, amazing etc. Its like a flood of positivity and back patting. Slapping yourself on the back and shaking you hands with all involved. This often is how self serving film people get coverage of work and how they have their ego massaged. However this is the rare time where excessive words about film, make for a justified reaction. PHOENIX is exceptional. Amazingly directed. Wonderfully shot and with dynamic performances.
Jill (Ylva Bjorkaas in a stand out and break through role) is the family head. She has been from a young age. Washing, cleaning, cooking and looking after the administrtation of the family space. She works hard and now as her 14th birthday approaches, she has to deal with her unstable mother (Maria Bonnevie) emotional meltdown. Her younger brother Bo (Casper Falck-Lovas) is immune to much of this world. Jill has tried to protect him from the harm that is spilling out in the mothers meltdowns. When her father (Sverrir Gudnason) wants to see her for her birthday, things start to decay further and suddenly everything needs to brake.
What can I identify as the reason for PHOENIX brilliance? Well. There is an erudite quality to the film that makes its impact all the more powerful. This is carried across the film by the emotional vulnerable performance of Ylva Bjorkaas. She and director Camilla Strom Henriksen, seem to have developed a natural connection. Pulling away the tiny little fragments of performance over natural interactions. It reminded me of the power of the Kitchen Sink film. They often worked on moments in a life that defined the world they inhabited. The route of humanity is via experience. One scene early on in particular, sees the very natural communication between mother and daughter. However the interaction is poisoned by the mothers mental health. The too and fro is energetic and engaging. It also feels real. So real. So real that you are drawn into the world. Then as she is pulled away and goes on to washing of bed sheets, you cant leave the images. Its dazzling. I say this. It is something to behold.