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Play (2011)

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 118 minutes

US Certificate: Not Yet Rated UK Certificate: Not Yet Rated

Play is a low budget movie from Sweden based on the real life events surrounding a group of 12-14 year old bullies in the Gothenburg area, who would choose well-off victims and play mind games with them until they got all the material possessions they wanted. Doesn’t sound that impressive, however it’s the subtle, sophisticated way in which the bullies were able to coax their prey to ‘willingly’ give them all they wanted that glues you to the screen.

The bullies aren’t the over-the-top clichés of the Stand By Me ilk, spouting embarrassing dialogue along the lines of “Give me your money, you nincompoop”, or the rather remedial ‘ya mam’ variety.  Play’s bullies are an organised hunting pack who take good cop, bad cop roles and are ruthless in their execution. It’s all about the unnervingly, advanced psychological games that bullies to can play with their victims. A lot could be made about the racial aspect of the movie – black bullies, white victims – but all this really does is to add the element of pre-conditioning of white society and what reactions are programmed into us.

Ruben Östlund doesn’t put you right into the middle of the action but with a use of camera work from a distance and longshots detaches you from things and makes you a mere observer.  The performances from all the boys concerned are excellent as this is as far away from drama school and theatre you can get. They convey the merest of facial expressions and nuanced body language with perfect clarity to show which side they stand on. Also, apart from one occasion, Play never really resorts to shock violence to get it’s point across yet stays understated throughout.

It might get a little ridiculous at the end but this is a fascinating film nonetheless. Not to be seen if you have teenagers. With a Blackberry. In Sweden.

It's Got: A simple, yet rivetting plot, subtle acting from a young cast, enough tension to make you squirm in your seat

It Needs: A less ridiculous climax


A subtle look at the psychological nuances of teenage bullies in Sweden. Fascinating watching.