Typically when disaster films include try to include a romance sub-plot, it centres on a heroic man rescuing a poor lady from a wreckage and vowing to spend the rest of his remaining days protecting her. Swedish disaster romance The Unthinkable (Den Blomstertid nu Kommer) however, spends a good amount of its sprawling 129 minutes establishing the relationship and subsequent downfall of Alex (Christoffer Nordenrot) and Anna (Lisa Henni), two young pianists who meet as teens and then grow apart when Anna moves to Stockholm.
We meet Alex as a teenager, falling in love with Anna, who first teaches him the piano. He’s being raised in a poor, almost abusive household under an ex-military, avid conspiracy theorist father, Björn (Jesper Barkselius), and his mother. When Alex’s mother decides to leave Björn after Christmas Alex is filled with such despair that he doesn’t give Anna her leaving gift as he intended. Unable to deal with his father anymore Alex also leaves for Stockholm, and in his adult life becomes a successful pianist. These scenes are doused in longing and heartache, directing collective Crazy Pictures perfectly capture the feeling of a fleeting teen romance and the dissatisfaction within Alex’s adult life is plain to see during a beautiful concert scene of Alex in action, completely at one with his craft but almost robotic. Alex’s piano music guides the film, entrenching the heavy use of atmospheric rain and mist with a sense of melancholy. The score from Gustaf Spetz would blend in quite seamlessly with Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar.
Meanwhile back at home, Björn is convinced that Russian spies are entering Sweden as German tourists all the while mysterious acts of terrorism are occurring in Stockholm. Alex sees a bridge collapse and two of Stockholm’s major transportation hubs are destroyed. The Unthinkable works at its best as a slow-burn unravelling of societal structure- which may not suit the tastes of audiences used to huge payoffs in rapid time, but does act on a level of realism rarely depicted in disaster films. Suspecting something is wrong, Alex decides to head back to his hometown for safety, where he discovers Anna has also returned. There are multiple side-plots interwoven here regarding Anna’s family and Alex’s dad that do tend to over-stuff the story but do make way for one particularly incredible action sequence involving a car pile-up on a bridge. Shot with a narrow point of view, almost like a first-person perspective, the camera moves fluidly as multiple cars crash into frame with shocking impact. With a budget of just $2 million it is an astounding feat to have a film look this good, perhaps even better, than most of what Hollywood is currently churning out.
Intense action sequences continue to roll out with devastating intensity; helicopters crash to the ground and electrical towers fall in the forest area that the film’s most climactic moments take place in. It is discovered that chemicals within the rain are causing memory loss, leading to an atmosphere drenched in despair as Alex tries to rekindle his lost love with Anna. Hannes Krantz’ cinematography is intensely moody, blue grey tones in the films second half are a glaring contrast to the warm sepia tones of the story’s earlier romantic flourishes, yet it still maintains a touching sentimentality throughout.
Despite at times feeling bloated with multiple characters to follow, the slow-burn nature of The Unthinkable delivers a great sense of heart, longing and desperation with sharp action sequences that outshine its minimal budget. Crazy Pictures’ decision to focus on current news room topics like Russia and terrorism drives a threatening sense of realism that will have you diving for a bunker in no time.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here