Stolen (2024) Movie Review – An Elle Márjá Eira film that’s more documentary than crime drama

An Elle Márjá Eira film that’s more documentary than crime drama

Stolen is a 2024 Netflix crime drama directed by Elle Márjá Eira, a Swedish filmmaker. The film is based on a novel by Ann-Helén Laestadius and tells the story of the Sami people, who have a long tradition of reindeer herding. The movie explores themes of hate crimes and the relationships between different villages.

The story begins with a young girl named Elsa, who is selecting her own reindeer calf. Elsa dreams of following in her father’s footsteps as a reindeer herder. However, her childhood is shattered when she witnesses a man slaughtering her beloved calf. Elsa is too scared to speak up about what she saw, and this event haunts her into adulthood. She blames herself for not being able to seek justice for her calf, Nastegallu, and feels responsible for the ongoing killings of reindeer in her community.

The film is set in the snowy north of Sweden and shows stunning scenes of snow-capped mountains and herds of reindeer. The indigenous Sami people are depicted beautifully, and we see them in their traditional outfits and customs. The shots of herders guiding their reindeer through the snowy mountains are gorgeous, along with the scenes of frozen lakes shimmering in the sunlight, which are also breathtaking.

However, the film also shows some gruesome acts on reindeer, which are disturbing against such a beautiful natural backdrop. The sight of innocent blood on the pristine white snow is daunting and will give you goosebumps.  The movie is also educational and talks about the lives of the Sami people. Most of the film is in the Sami language, showing how people were punished in the past for speaking their own language. It sheds light on the challenges faced by the Sami in herding their reindeer despite various government protection schemes.

The film beautifully portrays many herding techniques and also highlights the impact of climate change on reindeer herding. There’s a conflict between the Sami and nearby villagers over the construction of a mill that could bring jobs to the villagers but could also disrupt the Sami’s way of life. Additionally, the movie touches on the struggles of Sami youngsters who are unable to bear the violence inflicted on their reindeer herd.

The movie’s visuals are stunning, especially with all the gorgeous scenery from the northern part of Sweden. You’ve got these amazing shots of snow-capped mountains and crystal-clear lakes that just take your breath away. And do not forget about the Sami communities there, with their rich traditions and deep connection to the land. The cinematography really plays with the natural light, whether it’s the long summer days or the twilight of winter.

The colours of the Arctic landscape are captured so beautifully, adding to the film’s mood and feel. This turns Sweden’s landscape into a character itself, changing dramatically throughout the year, reflecting the film’s themes and story.

The movie’s characters can be split into two groups: those who want to separate the Sami people and those who seek justice for the reindeer killings. Elsa, who dreams of being a reindeer herder and achieves her goal, finds herself with no one to help her village except to hunt down the killer.

The police in the movie are portrayed as ineffective, simply labeling the killings as “Stolen” without taking any real action. Elsa’s brother, Mattias, shares Elsa’s goal and even goes as far as foolishly confronting the killer himself. The killer, Robert Isaksson, constantly complains about not being able to fish or snowmobile freely due to government regulations aimed at protecting reindeer.

This frustration seems to be his main motivation for committing violence against the reindeer and the Sami community. In the film, everyone seems to revolve their lives around the reindeer, which can make the characters feel one-dimensional and disconnect the audience from them. The antagonist, Robert, is a hunter and a killer who takes pleasure in abducting reindeer and documenting his cruel acts to taunt the Sami community.

He’s portrayed as a narcissist who feels like his life is out of control due to government regulations. He often complains about not being able to enjoy the same activities he did as a child, like fishing with his dad, and this seemingly trivial issue drives him to commit horrific crimes.  Despite issuing death threats and mocking an entire community, Robert never faces legal consequences for his actions. 

When a movie gets too preachy, it can feel like it is hitting you over the head with its message, like a lecture from that one boring teacher you had in school. It forgets to be subtle, which is like trying to dance in clown shoes—it’s just not graceful. Instead of letting the story and characters glow, it appears that the movie is standing on a soapbox, shouting its ideas at you.

This movie, even though it’s categorized as a crime drama, spends so much time preaching that it forgets to focus on the crime drama part. The plot is okay, nothing to write home about, but the preachiness takes the spotlight, stealing the film from what could have been a more engaging storyline. In simple terms, the film feels like a great meal ruined by too much salt. 

Stolen is a 2024 Swedish flick that talks about the challenges faced by Sweden’s Sami community. The film is a visual feast, taking you to some stunning spots and teaching you a lot about Sami traditions and how the government supports them. But let’s set the record straight: it’s not your typical crime drama.

This movie leans more toward being a semi-documentary, giving you a real education while you watch. If you’re into documentaries that pack a punch, this one’s definitely worth a stream, otherwise, you can definitely skip this one. 


Read More: Stolen Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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