Red Dot (2021)

Directed by Alain Darborg
Written by Alain Darborg & Per Dickson

It certainly doesn’t need to be said that life in quarantine has not been easy. Spending every waking minute with family, significant others, roommates, whoever we are spending this pandemic with has been trying. I think it’s no comment on our relationships with these people; they are our family and friends for a very special reason, but that being said, I’m sure quarantine has also exposed some not so great relationships. Perhaps the hardest part is there is no escape, there is no time to disconnect and get away, whether with them or away from them. In the case of the characters in Red Dot, they want to get away together, clear their minds, reset in a way. Retreating into nature can be a cleansing experience. But Red Dot, a new Swedish thriller, asks the question what happens when the hell you’re looking to escape from only leads you to an expected hell at your destination?

Nadja (Nanna Blondell) and David (Anastasios Soulis) have been happily married for a little bit, but Nadja is growing tired of the couples dynamic: David overworks, then comes home to unwind instead of help around the house, while Nadja is studying to become a doctor, but is forced to do a lot. After discovering that Nadja is pregnant, David surprises her by proposing a skiing trip up north where they can camp outdoors and see the Northern Lights. On their way, David hits the car of some sketchy guys at the gas station. Instead of stopping, they drive on, later finding their own car scrapped in the parking lot, leading Nadja to take a screwdriver to their truck out of revenge. But once the couple settle down for the night in the middle of the wilderness, they see a mysterious red dot appear in their tent, leading them to be stranded without out their supplies, on the run from an unknown assailant.

To be honest, Red Dot is not a film that I walked away from thinking it was any good. There are a lot frustrating moments in the film, from the tired marital drama, the surprise pregnancy to add strain, and even the racist undertones to the testy encounter Nadja and David have. It feels very obvious and cliché. Even the inevitable twist, while unexpected, still felt unrealistic and forced. But to be honest with you, that is why I like to write about movies. It forces me to reflect on a movie longer than the 10 seconds between the film ending and Netflix automatically playing the next option. Red Dot, on the surface, definitely feels like it could be a throwaway film, but it manages to feature some real tension and uncertainty. Nadja and David have a pretty shocking, and harrowing experience which comes out of left field, as does the twist. In that respect, the film is really well structured and directed to squeeze everything it does out of the 90 minute run time.

And thank goodness it isn’t any longer, because I think it had mostly run its course. I mean that in the best way possible though. It is very smart about not overdoing it, or dragging it out. You can only spend so much time on the run in the cold, snowy mountains of northern Sweden. There are just enough characters, just enough set pieces to feel like a fully realized story start to finish without any bloat. And while Red Dot doesn’t do anything new, or even exceptionally well (which is probably why I left the film feeling underwhelmed), it manages itself in a very effective and efficient way. And while we may hope that every movie we see might have the potential to be the next great thing we see, sometimes seeing something that is good, yet fleeting is satisfactory enough.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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