As It Is In Heaven 2: Film Review
Cast: Frida Hallgren
Director: Kay Pollak
10 years ago, a Swedish film found itself in the unique position of resonating with audiences.
In New Zealand alone, the film spent 52 weeks in the box office charts thanks to both its feelgood factor and its word of mouth as the story of a conductor after both a second chance at life and love scored critical acclaim.
A decade on and a sequel to As It Is In Heaven has shown and with it, a collective feeling of what next for the story which felt resolved and unworthy of further exploration.
In that time, a lot has changed and quite possibly, some of the assumed character familiarity has faded. Needless to say Michael Nyqvist's conductor Daniel Dareus is no longer with us, having given up the ghost after his path to redemption was completed in the first film.
But the wild child student Lena from his choir who he slept with is about to give birth as the action picks up nine months later.
Ostracised by some for her relationship and saddled with a past, Lena decides to help drunk priest Stig to get more into his church as well as settling some old scores by showing she can put on a version of Handel's
Messiah for a grand re-opening.
Juggling motherhood as well as a potential new love interest, pressure grows on Lena to measure up to her own expectations and deal with her past. However, with the community and authorities turning against Stig, it looks like Lena may have bitten off more than she can chew.
As It Is In Heaven 2 is simply an off-key muddle when compared to the vastly superior first film.
Whereas the first had subtlety and nuance aplenty as well as warmth of character, this one jettisons all of that for a broad comedy opening, a birth in snow and a muddling priest that feels like Father Ted met with Sweden in a tonal road crash.
Once things settle, they don't get much better with the script preferring to fall into a rut that sees Lena consistently clashing with the priest Stig who then chastises her. It's a stuttering way to carry out the drama and ironically for a film about a community choir, a one note story throughout that drags the 130 minute run time to a halt.
To be fair, Frida Hallgren remains a beguiling presence as the movie plays out and is certainly worthy of stepping into the conductor's role of the film even if she has little to work with. And the script writers clearly haven't thought about how to conclude the film with a jarring character death that's supposed to hit emotionally failing to land - and the death ex machina event prematurely brings events to a close with threads left narratively unfed on the vine (closure of churches, a removal from the priesthood et al). Add to that some jarring religious imagery that borders on the blasphemous for some, and As It Is In Heaven 2 is a scathing cousin of a great film that once set so many hearts and souls alight.
Lightning very rarely strikes twice in the same place and As It Is In Heaven 2 is sadly a reminder of that fact - disappointing, difficult and out of tune, it's probably safe to say you'd be better off re-watching the original and bathing in that glory, rather than submitting yourself to this inferior and unwarranted sequel.