Talking Movies: Playground, The Emigrants and I’m Your Man

Spling reviews Playground, The Emigrants and I’m Your Man as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about three films screening as part of the upcoming European Film Festival: a docudrama, an epic historical drama and a sci-fi romance comedy.

Starting off with…


A brother and sister struggle to come to terms with their roles in playground bullying.

Writer-Director: Laura Wandel

Stars: Maya Vanderbeque, Günter Duret and Lena Girard Voss

– This French docudrama centres on a sibling relationship as Abel and Nora try to deal with the complexities around schoolyard bullying.
– Shifting between victim and perpetrator, Abel frustrates his concerned sister by telling her to be quiet and keeping her at a distance.
– As a docudrama, Playground is taken from Nora’s perspective, capturing fleeting moments to depict sociology and hidden challenges.
– What sets Playground apart as a film is that it’s shot from child height, creating the perception of a child’s point-of-view.
– This smart visual treatment helps convey the feeling of being small and vulnerable, keeping things up close, intimate and in another realm.
– Keeping this fixed view has its limitations but powers Playground as we live vicariously through Nora’s experiences.
– Adults interject but Playground’s strength is in the helpless moments where things happen uninterrupted by parents, guardians or teachers.
– The free-flowing feel captures kids being kids and there are times when documentary and drama appear to be seamlessly interchangeable.
– Playground’s a sensitively-handled and insightful foray into timely social issues that is alarming and powerful.
– The film’s format feels a bit long, even at 72 minutes, and there could’ve had a better balance of humour to shade its relentlessly bleak atmosphere.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to…


A portrait of a Swedish family’s emigration to the United States from the perspective of a mother.

Director: Erik Poppe

Stars: Gustaf Skarsgård, Sofia Helin and Díana Bermudez

– The Emigrants is based on the book by Vilhelm Moberg, published in 1949 and follows the 1971 Oscar-nominated adaptation starring Max von Sydow.
– This authentic and handsomely mounted transatlantic epic covers the arduous journey of a family through their hardships of relocating to Minnesota.
– The gritty and depressing atmosphere of disconnecting from family and setting sail for the land of freedom and opportunities recalls Vincent van Gogh’s Potato Eaters.
– Wrestling with alienation, faith, class and health, the family struggles to readjust to their new surroundings and fortunes.
– The Emigrants remains timely in its exploration of immigration and exile as Swedes reconnect in a foreign land in order to establish farming and trade.
– Centred on a female friendship, see-sawing fortunes and puritannical prejudices create curious and taut ethical drama as a grand adventure evolves into a western.
– Using immersive visual effects, The Emigrants beautifully transplants its family through the voyage from boats and ships to trains and wagons.
– Reminiscent of the story at the heart of The Boers at the End of the World, The Emigrants is a sweeping historical drama.
– Focussed on a mother’s seasons of change, the drama happens from an arm’s length, slowly revealing its characters with objectivity from a cool distance.
– While long, The Emigrants is a cinematic journey powered by humble performances, an emotive visual poetry and a vivid ebb-and-flow to the years-long drama.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally…


A woman participates in a cutting edge AI experiment whereby she lives with a humanoid robot.

Writer-Director: Maria Schrader

Stars: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens and Sandra Hüller

– I’m Your Man is a sci-fi romcom based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky, which explores themes surrounding AI, identity, love and loneliness.
– Following on from Spike Jonze’s Her, I’m Your Man takes this science fiction a step further by going beyond the limitations of an operating system.
– Reminiscent of Not Quite Human, there’s an amusing comedic slant to I’m Your Man as a fiercely independent anthropologist tries to resist being romanced by a robot companion.
– While there’s plenty of fun in exploring the give-and-take of their unconventional relationship, the film’s frothy “romcom” title covers a much deeper commentary and spiritual quest.
– Eggert makes a strong lead, suspicious of her so-called perfect man and resistant to change, playing opposite a charming and steadfast Stevens whose German is surprisingly fluent in spite of his British accent.
– Being a human-slash-robot romance, Schrader’s elegant direction is sensitive enough to toy with romantic possibilities without capsizing into them.
– Moving from a dance floor scenario to taking her humanoid robot home, I’m Your Man remains entertaining in its fun concept and thoughtful in its philosophizing.
– Thanks to sharp co-lead performances, modern daydreaming and an elegant yet well-balanced take on romcom tropes – I’m Your Man is a charming, delightful and smart film.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

PLAYGROUND… an empathetic point-of-view dynamic enhances this haunting, powerful and insightful docudrama… A solid 7!

THE EMIGRANTS… authentic visuals, earnest performances and timely themes compel this epic journey of a historical drama… A solid 7!

I’M YOUR MAN… an elegant, entertaining, fun and well-acted sci-fi romcom concept with big questions… A solid 7!

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