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Unmoored by Caroline Ingvarsson


Unmoored is Caroline Ingvarsson’s first feature after a number of shorts. It is based on Håkan Nesser’s 2013 novel Levande och Döda i Winsford (The Living and the Dead in Winsford). Maria (Mirja Turestedt) is a TV presenter and hosts a trashy show where culprits are being cornered on live television, and their anger is part of the entertainment. She is married to Magnus (Thomas W Gabrielsson), a writer, who is now accused of rape. The charges put pressure on him. One could claim that it put strains on the couple’s marriage, but it is obvious that the relationship has been rocky for some time. In an attempt to flee the situation, they go on a trip to Marrakech.

The destination of the trip is not obvious. Maria wants to go to England, but Magnus pushes his will through, explaining that they can go by car via Poland. The reason for this odd detour is that the film is a Polish co-production; he is of Polish descent. Once in Poland, he is referred to as Mirek (Mirosław). Maria labels herself a feminist (she would hardly have a show on Swedish television otherwise) but is stuck in a marriage where she seems unable to do anything that she wants to do. This fact is bluntly pointed out during a dinner with a friend in Poland. Said friend has a trophy wife, who points out the absurdity of Maria’s situation.

Caroline Ingvarsson
Mirja Turestedt as Maria in Unmoored.

Most of the scenes set in Poland revel in clichés and might work if one chooses to regard them as Maria’s subjective view of Poland from a Swedish feminist’s standpoint. That is hardly the intention of the director and writer/producer, Michèle Marshall. The wife in question is Barbara (Marta Zmuda Trzebiatowska), who interrupts the conversation by saying it’s time for pierogi while her own dumplings are doing their best to escape her tight dress. If anyone misses out on her vulgarity, Maria will later complain to Magnus about it. Still, Barbara turns out to be the perceptive one. She doesn’t understand why Maria goes somewhere she doesn’t want to go while pointing out that her husband does anything she wants.

Unmoored in Exmoor

The story will escalate from here, meaning that the couple’s shouting at each other will become more incessant. The dialogue in Swedish is horrendous and far too indicative of Swedish films where shouting is confused with ramping up the tension. Without going into details, Magnus will disappear, and Maria will go to England, to Exmoor, to be precise. Alone with her dog, she will meet a man who seems to be everything that her husband is not, but why does she get threatening anonymous emails? Is Magnus following her? Could something else be afoot? The answers to those questions will be obvious to any discerning spectator or simply anyone who has watched a film before this one.

Unmoored 2
Maria, after escaping to England.

If you, dear reader, object to the overuse of the word obvious in this review, that is nothing compared to how abundantly clear everything is in Unmoored. From a cinematic standpoint, there is some considerable talent behind the camera. Michał Dymek’s lensing is never less than competent but a far cry from the towering achievement in EO. It is closer to the cinematography in another project with a Swedish director, Sweat by Magnus von Horn. Editor Agata Cierniak does her best to interject some tension into the proceedings. Whatever individual qualities the film has is undermined whenever the Swedish thespians open their mouths. I found myself laughing all through the fight scenes, which were reminiscent of Colin Nutley’s Angel.

Unmoored is not a successful film. The strongest quality might be that it is not too long. I haven’t read the source novel, but apparently, it has a different narrative structure. The film was surprisingly popular at the London Film Festival, and I would guess that its most significant chance of success is in Anglo-Saxon countries.

Seen at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it was screened in the First Feature Competition.  

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