There’s plenty to admire in Lisa Aschan’s debut film – and we’re not just talking Swedes in sportswear.
In the absence of a mother, sisters Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) and Sara (Isabella Lindquist) have turned to obscure sports. When Emma – already a talented dog trainer in the Ashleigh and Pudsey mould – decides to take up equestrian vaulting (that’s gymnastics on the back of a moving horse) she meets Cassandra (Linda Molin) and the pair begin an intense and provocative friendship. In a flurry of hormones, the blonde beauties toy with each other, and a couple of hopeful suitors, as the sexual tension reaches a canter. But as competition for places on the team hots up, so too does their relationship, with Cassandra declaring, ‘We should always be together’.
Meanwhile, young Sara – a ten-year-old synchronised swimming enthusiast – has a crush on her cousin and babysitter, Sebastian. With her sister away with Cassandra, Sara begins to become aware of her own sexual identity after she is told to wear a bikini top at the pool. An agonising choice ensues between a fetching frilly number and a skimpy leopard-print design, before she steals the show with a private dance for Sebastian in the victorious leopard-print. Consumed with her own feelings for Cassandra, Emma’s only advice is: ‘be tough or your babies will be freaks’.
She Monkeys is sexy, Swedish, psychological and deeply unsettling. Aschan skillfully subverts the coming-of-age genre into something altogether more sinister and there are compelling performances from Paradeiser, Molin and particularly the adorable Lindquist. Against such burgeoning talent, even the random bouts of aggressive organ music (that helped the film claim ‘Best Sound’ at the Swedish Oscars) go relatively unnoticed.
She Monkeys is out now in selected UK cinemas.
Text: Daniel Kilpatrick