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Sundance 2020 Review: “Charter” (2020) ★★★★★


Custody battle over a child is traumatic for all parties involved, not to mention the child who will suffer the most. So, the question is, what needs to be done to prevent a catastrophic chain of events when two stubborn adults are still in disagreement? No matter the reason behind this, there’s always someone who will have to make the ultimate sacrifice; a sacrifice that will either lead to the path of forgiveness or heartbreak.

Alice has not seen her children for months. After her divorce with Mattius, she is awaiting the final decision over the custody of her children while her ex is the one in charge. But when she receives a disturbing call from her son, Vincent, fearing the worse, the woman waits no longer. However, her expectations were not met when Mattius aggressively makes his mind clear – he does not want her to be with their children under any circumstances. Realizing that there is no other way to reconnect with her children, she abducts them and runs to the Canary Islands where she must gain the children’s love and trust in her.

It all starts with the phone call where we hear Vincent’s voice and how sad he is. He clearly says, “I no longer wanna stay here”, then, the call is interrupted abruptly. Worried to death, Alice travels North to talk to her both children, Elina and Vincent. However, Mattius does not want that. We, at that point, do not know what triggered the divorce in the first place and why Alice is the one who does not have stability in her life in terms of all the necessary requirements she could meet to claim custody over her children. But we can only assume that it must be Mattius and his uncontrolled temper that forced her out of home and her own children’s life.

When she decides to kidnap her own children, the woman, as a mother, is deeply concerned by what happens to both Vincent and Elina, as she begins discovering troubling signs in their behavior or psychological state of mind. On the other hand, Mattius is worried more about having a solid distance between the children and their mother. That tension between the two is so obvious that you, as a viewer, will be extremely concerned about what happens next. And sadly, as we reach towards the middle of the film, we begin noticing what was not told in the beginning to begin painting a picture of Mattius, Alice, Vincent, and Elina.

Written and directed by Amanda Kernell, “Charter” is a sad portrait of a broken family where it seems as if not even slight patches of repair can be made to the damage. No matter the reason behind the divorce between Mattius and Alice, the film, thanks to thoughtful writing, does not focus on that but rather on the mother and her children. There is one line delivered by Mattius which is very important to note down, “I don’t want our children to be the one to sacrifice their comfort and much-needed routine for something their mother cannot deliver.” That line is quite powerful as it shapes the whole narrative of the film in a very subtle way that can easily break your heart.

As for the performance, Ane Dah Torp as Alice delivers a gut-wrenching performance while Sverrir Gudnason creates a tough character as Mattius, who we find powerful and disturbing at the same time. Tintin Poggats Sarri as Elina and Troy Lundkvist as Vincent are great as children to Alice and Mattius whose early maturity is not to be taken lightly. Both the young actors help us understand Alice’s intentions, who we must look at while learning about her own children at the same time.

To conclude, “Charter” is about many things but more importantly it’s about a mother who knows what is best for her children. It’s about a mother who is not selfish at all. Alice is a very genuine and nice person who cares about her children; a level of care that only a mother could provide. This is why “Charter” works perfectly well. Out of so many possibilities to share her personality, Amanda Kernell gives what Alice needs to have in order to fulfill her own journey from start to end. Towards the end of the film, you will feel for Alice and applaud her for her decision, a decision only the wise would make, and in her case, a mother.

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