Edinburgh Bites: Call Girl Review

Mike Scurfield catches Call Girl at the Edinburgh International Film Festival...

Effortlessly evoking the 1970s in both tone and image, this impressive piece of Swedish cinema from director Mikael Marcimain takes real life events and whips them up into a taut thriller of crossed loyalties, misplaced trust and political cover-up.

The action takes place in late ‘70s Stockholm, where 14-year-old Iris (a convincing, fearless performance by Sofia Karemyr) is being drafted by older cohorts from the juvenile home where she lives to make some quick cash. Sneaking out at night, Iris and her friend Sonja (Josefin Asplund) hang around gentlemen’s parties, giggling nervously as they are coaxed into removing their clothes for the host’s pleasure. Here, they meet Dagmar Glans (sly, calculating Pernilla August) who loops the youngsters into the extravagant - and well paid - world of the high-class call girl. At Dagmar’s command, the teens become prostitutes for hire. Meanwhile, young police detective John Sandberg (Simon J. Berger), works inside and outside the law to bring down Dagmar’s illicit sex ring.

Having kicked up dust in its home country with the implication of Swedish politicians and their involvement in underage prostitution, Call Girl wears its authenticity with pride. It’s an impeccably styled piece too: cars, clothes and decor all radiate with genuine ‘70s garishness. There’s even an effort to match the era cinematically; with its full-frame neon-text title card, slow zooms and burnt yellow color palette, it brings to mind the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Maybe unsurprisingly, as both films share a cinematographer in Hoyte Van Hoytema.

This unravelling tale of scandal and sex comes served in two overlapping halves: the first, Iris’s slide into Dagmar’s quicksand trap; the second, Sandberg’s struggle to pull her out through Zodiac-esque investigation. And though slow to start, plus overlong at 140 minutes, Marcimain’s accomplished film pairs superb performances and period accuracy with a sordid, corrupt, often shocking tale, that took place under literal and media darkness.

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out of 10

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