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A traumatized single mum (Noomi Rapace) goes into witness protection with her 8-year-old son in this paranoid Norwegian thriller from writer-director Pal Sletaune.
Following a brief Hollywood jaunt with Sherlock Holmes, Noomi 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' Rapace is back in Scandinavian territory, once again playing a young woman with mental health problems who's been let down by the system that's supposed to protect her.
She's Anna, a young mum forced into hiding with her 8-year-old son, Anders, ostensibly to escape an abusive husband. But all is not what it seems. Anna suffers from hallucinations and black-outs and her grasp on reality is loosening fast. Terrified of her sexually-aggressive child welfare officer, her only friend is a mild-mannered shop attendant (Kristoffer Joner) who she meets while buying a baby monitor (the 'babycall' of the title) to keep tabs on Anders.
The film starts out as a straight-up psychological thriller but gradually morphs into something more complex and weird. The latter half of the plot is littered with red herrings. Every time you think you've got it sussed, it shifts again, and not always for the better - the ending is so convoluted and far-fetched that it undoes a lot of the good work in the first half.
A gently unsettling string score and greeny-blue Nordic filters help to preserve the menacing tone when the story falls short but it's Rapace's nervily-nuanced performance that carries the film. She compels us to sympathise with Anna, for all her weaknesses, and watching her mental decline is a painful and frustrating experience. Where Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth Salander has a Taser and an intricate knowledge of computer hacking to wreak revenge on those who have wronged her, Anna has nothing to fall back on except her obsessive love for her son. What's ultimately most upsetting about this film is that Anna's situation is the more true to life.
Part disturbing study of vulnerability, part twisty-turny decoy fest, Babycall gets a bit too ensnared in its own web of intrigue.
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On Film4: 02 April 2015