Opening 24 Nov 2011
A mother and father are talking to a barrel, but communication stagnates. In desperation, they fetch their oldest son Sam (Martin Wallström), who speaks the barrel’s “outer-space” language. After a long, unintelligible conversation, the barrel reveals its contents: Simon – the brother of Sam. Simon (played by Bill Skarsgård) is 18 and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. He is most happy with a strictly predictable schedule in a familiar environment, for example in the barrel, where he pretends to be an astronaut. The parents are at their wits’ end over Simon’s behavior. Sam moves Simon into his own apartment, which he shares with girlfriend Frida. The threesome doesn’t jell and someone has to exit. No one is surprised that it is Frida, whose patience has dried up in a fit of frustration. Sam is not just sad, but completely depressed at losing his love and his future. Simon shows uncharacteristically deep feelings for another person, i.e., his brother, and sets out to find a girlfriend replacement, using the only skills he has: a love of mathematics and circles and a dogged, straightforward determination.
Director Andreas Öhman is not yet 30 years old and has already scored a winner with this, his first feature film, which Sweden nominated for best foreign-film Oscar. Öhman said that he intended to feature an Asperger-syndrome-afflicted person from that person’s perspective, rather than from the outside as others might see him. He achieves this goal perfectly, and since we see all the action through Simon’s eyes, this wonderful movie becomes very humorous, warm, and personal. We can relate and actually forget that Simon has any kind of problem. We cheer him on in his endeavours to help his brother. Some critics have compared Simple Simon to the 2001 Norwegian film Elling, which is about a man who must cope with mental illness. Elling won 14 prizes at nine international film festivals, but, believe me, Simple Simon is even better, because the acting is wonderful, the script fast and funny, and because the characters are young and eager and enthusiastic. Öhman said, “I believe that deep down inside, we all have some proclivity towards Asperger’s Syndrome, which we should treat delicately. It makes us unique, just like Simon is unique. I hope you like him as much as I do.” (Becky Tan)