For her debut feature, Swedish director Gabriela Pichler spins a number of autobiographical elements - and even her own family members - into the fictional tale of a young girl caught in the wave of contemporary youth unemployment. While Ms. Pichler didn't quite suffer the same fate as her plucky heroine, she is herself born in Sweden from Bosnian and Austrian immigrant parents, and was a factory worker who gave up her job to study film.

     Coming from documentary studies and a background, she draws upon common immigrant experiences to depict the no-future cycle open to Raša, the hard-working daughter of a Montenegrin immigrant who is laid off from her factory job and realises she has little to no chance of finding a new one in her provincial area. Eat Sleep Die's title is pretty much the lot of the modern-day working poor, immigrant or not; while Raša (forcefully portrayed by the powerful Nermina Lukač) is young enough to go out and try to fend for herself, many of her fellow laid-off workers are older but have educational or social advantages she doesn't (like a driver's license). And her father (Milan Dragišić), who isn't as fluent in Swedish, is ailing and unable to keep up his odd jobs, making the household's well-being depend entirely on her.

     Yet, despite Ms. Lukač's performance and the total absence of sentiment in Ms. Pichler's approach to the story, there's little to make this well-made, assured debut feature stand apart from the many social problem pictures being produced since the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta. The strong sense of community present in the small town where Raša lives is a nice touch - she is perfectly integrated and nobody looks at her as an interloper or makes her feel unwelcome, in a change from the usual way immigrants are treated once things start going wrong in the community. And there is always a sense that Ms. Pichler is anchoring her fiction in a strong documented reality, one that never feels fake and shows another side of Sweden that doesn't usually come to the fore, with grayish-toned cinematography from Johan Lundborg. None of that, however, is enough to make Eat Sleep Die rise above its status as a debut effort that is solid and honest but has little distinguishing features.

Cast: Nermina Lukač, Milan Dragišić, Jonathan Lampinen, Peter Fält, Ružica Pichler
Director and writer: Gabriela Pichler
Cinematography: Johan Lundborg
Music: Andreas Svensson, Jonas Isaksson
Art directors: Jessika Jankert, Tobias Äkersson, Jessica Tarland
Costumes: Sandra Wollersdorf
Editors: Ms. Pichler, Mr. Lundborg
Producer: China Åhlund  (Anagram Film in co-production with Film i Skåne, Swedish Television and Film i Väst)
Sweden, 2012, 104 minutes

Screened: IndieLisboa Film Festival 2013 official competition advance streaming screener, Lisbon, April 13th 2013


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