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Swede Caroline

This very British hybrid of mockumentary and deep fake television is as juicy and plump as the vegetables portrayed, but also a little overgrown - in cinemas on Friday, April 19th

In gardening-obsessed UK, marrow-harvesting is a highly competitive endeavour. The contestants have the ego the size of a giant pumpkin, and they are determined to defend their hard-earned title. In order to do so, they must prove that they are indeed growers not showers. A not-very-sweet Caroline (played by a sullen Jo Hartley) devotes as much TLC to her enormous vegetables as she does to her to newfound lover Willy (Celyn Jones), who also happens to be her neighbour. Her romantic relations are rooted in controversy: her husband died years earlier by falling into an incinerator (“he was toast”, in one of the many puns that populate this strange little comedy, starting with its very title).

The rest of the plot is just as strange. Caroline and Willy are friends with a conspiracy theorist Paul. He too is a plant enthusiast, partaking in the same veggie growing competition. Caroline was disqualified the previous year because of a hairline fissure (whatever that means), and this year balaclava-clad robbers have kidnapped her marrow (which is more or less the size of a person) from her greenhouse. So she sets out to uncover the unsavoury truth. Abundant twists and loud and graphic violence ensues as both people and the veggies are attacked. A real feast of squelching and crunching sounds (presumably many hapless vegetables were butchered in the foley studio). Wilfully tasteless.

The bonkers violence and aesthetic austerity recall British indie classic Prevenge (2017), an absurdist horror-comedy about a bloodthirsty unborn bab. In fact, the director Alice Lowe plays a minor role here, as the vegetable criminal worlds unfolds before our eyes.

The movie is structured as a documentary, with talking heads testimonials being interspersed with “real” footage. Except everything is fake. The slapstick elements and the intentionally contrived acting remind viewers that this is in reality a comedy. The aesthetics are vaguely reminiscent of television show Deep Fake Neighbour Wars, in which actors impersonate real celebrities and feign a turf war to absurd and mostly hilarious effects.

Swede Caroline tries really hard to be funny, too. It relies on shambolic characters and also on dirty jokes. The entire film is spiced with sexual innuendo (“the largest leak”, “the longest chilli”, “he won an award for putting weight into his pumpkins: no longer allowed anywhere near that fields”, etc). It partly works. The movie elicits some laughter, but its wonky storyline inevitably leads to some less remarkable flavours, and this bigger-than-life story often becomes a little insipid (much like the overgrown marrows portrayed on screen).

Swede Caroline premiered at Raindance in 2023. It is in cinemas on Friday, April 19th (2024). An easily-digestible little movie.

By Victor Fraga - 18-04-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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