Published Sep 16, 2010As far back as he can remember, Henry Hill wanted to be a gangster. We know that, of course, because it's the first thing he says in Goodfellas. As for Martin, the teenage protagonist in Behind Blue Skies, well, we don't really know what he wants, even if he manages to fall into a rough version of Hill's story across a single summer in 1975. Oh, and in Sweden.
A fictionalized account of a real Swedish scandal - the busting of a drug syndicate operating out of one of Stockholm's scenic archipelagos, otherwise used as tourist destinations - Behind Blue Skies' major problem for a non-Swedish viewer is that, untouched by any resonance from the original crime or, indeed, any particular context for Sweden in the '70s (outside of Abba), the "main" story thread is a deeply, cliché unnecessary and cliché addition to what is otherwise a sweet, if uneventful, bit of teenage nostalgia.
Scenes featuring drug preparation or other gangster-ish activities are absolutely flat and lifeless compared to the warmth and pathos found in those featuring Martin, adrift from a damaged family and distant friends, steering himself unsteadily through perfectly ordinary social situations, including pursuing a girl (Jenny) who manages to be even more mysterious than Martin.
All the teenage leads are pleasingly spotty, awkward and in their tenderest moments, utterly believable, but squashed into the sidelines of a particularly non-dramatic crime drama, they aren't given the freedom to breathe.
By the end, we don't know Martin any more than at the beginning, even with the director's urge to tie-up nearly every plot thread with a crowd-pleasing turn. The tragedy of Behind Blue Skies is how much we wished we did. (TrustNordisk)