Friday, July 29, 2011

my best friend is a vampire ... let me in

In Let Me In, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a lonely, friendless kid. When he isn't being picked on by bullies at school he is being ignored by his classmates. At home his mother (Cara Buono) pays little attention to him. His parents are divorcing and she is frequently visually out of frame, either praying to a picture of Jesus or passed out from wine on the couch. His absent father is just as disembodied, a guilty but disinterested voice on the telephone. Outside his home in early '80s Los Alamos, New Mexico it is always cold and snowing.

Owen spends a lot of time outdoors at night alone for a 12-year old
Owen may be ignored by most, but he is acutely aware of everyone around him. He spies on his neighbors, peeping at them through a telescope. He dons a mask and playacts in front of his bedroom mirror. He acts out his frustrations on an innocent tree, stabbing it multiple times with a kitchen knife. He is a little serial-killer-in-training, invisible in the world, spending most of his free time sitting outside, in the dark, for hours. He is invisible that is, until he meets his new neighbor, Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), who may be the best trainer for killers ever, as Abby is a vampire.

The movie is beautifully filmed and framed, every shot a framed photo. There are repeating, haunting images — of Abby walking barefoot in the snow, blood on white clothing, Owen and Abby studying themselves in mirrors, communicating with each other using Morse code by tapping out messages through their thin apartment walls.

Owen and Abby communicate through walls, from POURTANT, NOUS NE BOUGEA PAS

The film plays with gender and romanticism. When we first meet Owen he is bored when his English class assignment is to read Romeo and Juliet. Instead he teaches himself Morse code when he should be reading the Shakespeare play. But as he spends more time with Abby, who not only seems to like the play, but is able to quote it in a note to him, his mind and heart is opened. Both Owen and Abby are on the androgynous side. Owen is curious about sex. He watches his neighbors, especially ogling the women. But he is young and skinny and gawky and still a child.

Abby: Owen, do you like me?
Owen: Yeah. A lot.
Abby: Would you still like me ... even if I wasn't a girl?
Owen: What do you mean? I don't know. I guess. Why?
Abby: No reason.
Abby, as a vampire, is genderless. She has a real need for Owen. It is unclear how much of her attraction to him is driven by her need for a new protector/keeper or for genuine affection. Maybe for a vampire it doesn't matter. But they are both children, at least for the present, and can communicate together in ways that the outside world of adults is not privy to. They write each other notes as their relationship grows.
Dear Owen, I am in the bathroom. Please do not come in. Do you want to hang out with me again tonight? I really like you. Love, Abby.
Reflection is not a problem for Abby

The only weak feature was the fast-motion CGI camerawork when Abby would vamp out. It just seemed a bit out of place in this otherwise carefully-filmed movie. I have yet to see the Swedish film, Let the Right One In, on which Let Me In is based, or the novel on which both films are based. But I am curious if they will be as still, as beautifully composed and lit as this one. The music is also wonderful, the soundtrack composed by the great Michael Giacchino (LOST, Up). At the moment I don't have any plans to search them out, as I don't want to break the spell of this disturbing, yet beautiful film.
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