Review: Swede Caroline

Written and directed by Brook Driver, co-directed by Finn Bruce, competitive vegetable grower Caroline loses top spot in the marrow growing competition, then her prize marrow plants go missing after a midnight raid. With the help of her trusty partners Willy and Paul, Caroline sets off in search of the truth, on the way enduring kidnappings, car chases and – worst of all – courgettes. But will the culprit ever be caught?. Starring: Jo Hartley, Richard Lumsden, Celyn Jones, Aisling Bea, Ray Fearon and Alice Lowe.

When a synopsis mixes the mundane with the ridiculous, you know you’re in a for a good time and even more so when you add a quintessentially British sense of humour into the mix. One of the greatest things that Swede Caroline achieves is that it’s hilarious and silly, it’s so over the top about this very specific topic but it evolves that humour into a genuinely captivating story. You will honestly be surprised by how invested you become in these lovably hapless and endlessly enthusiastic characters. Another clever choice it makes is to never lose sight of the different threads it opens up, when you introduce chaos and crime, some filmmakers forget the origins of their story but Brook Driver wraps things up in neat bow. The writing is not only hugely consistent throughout, the laughs are many and a lot of fun, the road it takes is also very satisfying to watch. There’s character development, as well as exploring their relationships with one another, the plot is fantastic and it’s all presented in a well-timed 98-minute package.

Comedy has always been a tricky genre, it’s a balance getting the tone right and playing up the humour while still making your characters relatable, and never letting it run away from you. It’s a balance that not many have managed to achieve in recent years but Finn Bruce and Brook Driver hit the nail on the head with Swede Caroline. The mockumentary style is the perfect set-up, allowing it to have an off-the-cuff energy and give it a candid edge, with an anything can happen caveat. It has a big energy while making full use of a classic deadpan style. You could compare it to Hot Fuzz or even a lot of classic British comedy like Dad’s Army, leaning into the overt but never running too far from reality. It has just the right amount of exaggeration, especially when it capitalises on the drama between its competitive growers, as if The Great British Bake Off suddenly threw in some underhanded tactics.

Everything is already on top form but it can only get better when you include a staple of British indie cinema, Jo Hartley. Her comedic timing is excellent, she can walk that line of making a character smart but also oblivious and missing out on common sense, which is a great combination for Caroline. She’s the heart of this band of lovable eccentrics, her feet are just enough on the ground to be relatable but not firmly enough that hilarity won’t ensue. She then has two key sidekicks in the form of Richard Lumsden and Celyn Jones, Lumsden brings that classic over-confidence without the intelligence to back it up, loyal but not always the most helpful, which is enjoyable to watch. Then Jones brings us the adorable and dedicated Willy, who’s committed to helping Caroline live out her dreams. He’s a simple guy and Jones’ performance makes him an absolute joy to watch. There’s then a brilliant cast behind them, who all keep the comedy and hijinks going strong.

Swede Caroline is hilarious and a brilliantly good time, it’s funny from start to finish while also having a hugely entertaining story. It builds a foundation with its ridiculous and silly nature then creates a fun, captivating plot filled with endearing characters. The cast is an excellent mix of actors who all push the humour to its best, especially Jo Hartley and Celyn Jones. It’s perfectly British, has a fantastic energy and is an impressive directorial debut from Finn Bruce and Brook Driver.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Celebrated its World Premiere at Raindance Film Festival 2022 – Nominated for Best UK Feature

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