Phoenix (2019) ***

September 9th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor
Dir: Camilla Strøm Henriksen | Cast: Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin, Maria Bonnevie, Sverrir Gudnason, Casper Falck-Løvås | Norway Drama 97′

This portrait of parental neglect sees a teenager taking responsibility for her younger brother as her selfish parents pursue their own dreams. At home in Stockholm Jill is looking forward to her 14th birthday. But the cake that arrives on the doorstep is for her narcissistic mother who is celebrating a job interview – another opportunity to showcase her second-rate art – and sidestepping Jill completely.

Henriksen handles Jill’s complex emotional arc in a convincing performance from Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin, and Marie Bonnevie is superb as the depressed mother. What doesn’t work here is the horror element of the story which fails to ring true with the rest of this enigmatic domestic dystopia.

Phoenix is Norwegian actor Camilla Strøm Henriksen’s feature directorial debut and is based on her own life experience. Jill is forced to grow up too quickly and becomes  increasingly manipulative as she juggles the family dynamic – her youth is a disaster waiting to happen in adulthood. More disappointment arrives in the shape of her musician father who showers her with presents only to prove he too has feet of clay. Henriksen leaves us to imagine the ending in this rather lightweight drama that nevertheless provides food for thought. MT


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