THE REUNION (Sweden/Club/88mins)
Directed by Anna Odell. Starring Anna Odell, Anders Berg, David Nordstrom, Erik Ehn, Fredrik Meyer, Sandra Andreis, Kamila Benhamza, Niklas Engdahl.
At a 20-year school reunion, late arrival Anna Odell (Odell) is clearly not happy with her former classmates. Anna was bullied in school. And she wants everyone to be reminded of that fact tonight, standing up to give a speech that outlines the childhood cruelty that made her schooldays a misery. Unsurprisingly, such rain on this anniversary parade doesn’t go down to well with her former classmates, and Anna soon finds herself being ejected, rejected once more. But, hey, this is all just a staged drama organised by Anna Odell, and she soon has her real former classmates around, to watch the drama unfold, so she can guage their reactions. Some are happy to take a walk down misery lane with Anna, whilst others – usually those higher up the school food chain – refuse to engage. So, Anna tracks them down, eventually confronting the bully who most made her early years torture…
THE VERDICT: Hey, it’s Swedish, it’s a family gathering, gone horribly wrong, around the dinner table – man, that got my heart racing there. Until about 10 minutes into this self-indulgent, so-so sad-sack movie that simply reminds you just how incredible Thomas Vinterberg’s FESTEN (1998) really is.
Very much Anna Odell’s movie, the Swedish artist not only writing and directing but taking on the lead role too, THE REUNION feels more like art installation than movie. The fact that Anna Odell plays a character called Anna Odell adding to the fact.
One of those movies that you can, at a push, admire but not actually enjoy, THE REUNION makes you want to go out and punch a schoolkid. Wonder what Odell would make of that…?
Review by Paul Byrne

The Reunion
Review by Paul Byrne
  • filmbuff2011

    The Reunion is a Swedish film that blends fact and fiction with intriguing, if somewhat mixed results. Thirtysomething Anna (Anna Odell) arrives at her school reunion party. Seeing her old classmates for the first time in 20 years brings back lots of memories – mostly of the negative kind. For Anna was the unpopular, awkward one in the class, ignored by and often bullied by both her male and female classmates. During a speech, Anna seeks catharsis by confronting her former bullies with their appalling behaviour as teenagers. They were just teenagers, but some are unrepentant even now. This causes friction at the party, escalating into physical assaults on Anna, with her ultimately being ejected from the party. Stop the film. What we just saw wasn’t entirely real. In the second half, the real Anna (also Odell) is a director who has made the film we just saw. She went through the same bullying as her onscreen character, except for the fact that she wasn’t actually invited to the reunion party. She contacts her former classmates to confront them about why she wasn’t invited – and why her classmates and the whole situation hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years… It’s not the most ideal of analogies, but The Reunion is like watching a football match. There’s a lot of verbal football going on here between Anna and her classmates, some of it with red card behaviour. It’s also a film of two halves, confusingly so at first. It’s best to know this before watching the film, so you know what’s coming. It all gets very meta in the second half, as we see actors playing her classmates re-enacting watching the film with Anna (the real one) and talking about their reactions afterwards. The fact that director Anna Odell is essentially playing herself must have been really mind-bending for her actual classmates and former bullies, watching two versions of themselves onscreen. From an audience perspective, it’s an unusual film that asks questions about personal interpretation, selective memory and whether people can really change. Had Odell just stuck with the stronger first half, then this would have gained an extra star. Those early scenes are so well acted and immediately engaging that it’s disappointing to see them wrap up early. The second half is OK, but it takes you out of the story and becomes this slightly bizarre semi-documentary that isn’t fully formed. Maybe Odell is just attention seeking, but you have to admire her courage and willpower to make something so deeply personal and put it out there for all to see. 4 goals in the first half and 2 in the second half means that an average of 3 feels right. ***