A Part of You Movie Review: An intense, character-driven, teenage portrait on grief

A Part of You Movie Review: An intense, character-driven, teenage portrait on grief

A Part of You takes its time to unravel. It is slow build all the way through, but worth every minute of the 100
A Part of You(3.5 / 5)

Grief is a difficult subject to explore as it isn’t easily understood. How one navigates that complex emotion is as individual a journey as any. You may have those who have experienced the same loss as yourself, but a collective coming together to cope rarely ever works. It is for you to go through and make sense of on your own. When that grief extends to the death of a troubled yet popular older sister whose shadow you’ve been in all your life, the resultant emotions can only be described as difficult.

Director - Sigge Eklund

Cast - Felicia Maxime, Edvin Ryding, Zara Larsson, Ida Engvoll, Alva Bratt, Emil Hedayat, Mustafa Al-Mashhadani, Nikki Hanseblad, Olivia Essén

Streamer - Netflix

Sigge Eklund’s central character in A Part of You is the seventeen-year-old Agnes, portrayed in a riveting manner by Felicia Maxime. It is hard enough to be that age what with the monumental changes taking place physically and emotionally. To top it off, she seems to be in some awe of her older sibling, Julia (Zara Larsson), a larger-than-life personality who enjoys doing things on her own terms. She observes Julia silently at school, being the cynosure of friends and boyfriend alike. But truth be told, Julia has her own dark struggles. The film provides you with hints. An early scene lays the groundwork. At the lunch table (with the two sisters and Julia’s boyfriend, Noel, present), their mother puts her foot down about Julia attending a party. There’s a drinking problem that’s brought up, to which Julia asks if she is to be confined to the four walls forever. It happens to be Agnes’ birthday the following day, and all her mother’s talk of “think about your sister” is getting her anxious. She retreats to her room to watch TV as her sister and mother thrash it out. Noel (Edvin Ryding) joins her sheepishly. Julia is finally allowed to attend so long as Agnes and Noel accompany her. Everything goes off well, with Julia having a good time dancing and drinking at her friend, Esther’s place. She sings karaoke to Avicii’s 'Wake Me Up' and gets the crowd involved. Agnes stays in the background, thinking about her recent audition for a school play. Tragedy strikes later that night when Julia drives Noel’s car drunk before the two of them are able to stop her.

There are several layers to this intense, character-driven, teenage portrait of grief. There is much to be read between the lines; not everything going on inside is easy to bring up in conversation. Agnes starts acting out in her own unique way, disregarding the odd glances she’s getting from Julia’s friends and Noel. At first, it appears as if she has moved on too quickly; her mother is surprised she’s back to school so soon, even though the former had requested permission for some time off. She immerses herself in the school stage production, with the director sharing insight into his own brush with loss (the death of his brother in childhood). With her mother absent, Agnes begins hanging out with her sister’s friends. It’s all fine until she attempts to morph into Julia—dressing up like her, using the same make-up, singing her favourite track on karaoke. Her avoidance of Noel (who really wants to talk through his grief) is precipitated by the fact that she harbours feelings for him.

A Part of You takes its time to unravel. It is slow build all the way through, but worth every minute of the 100. The writing is so sensitive and deep that it doesn’t trivialise Agnes’ journey for even an instant. She is struggling to come to terms with the complicated circumstances; we’re all aware of that, but screenwriter Michaela Hamilton leaves any sort of judgement at the door. She allows Agnes the space to act out in whatever way she can…who is to say there is a right or wrong way when it comes to tackling the immense pain of losing a sibling? This is the sense I got from watching the film. It takes a mature actor attuned to the emotional complexity of life to come up with a lead performance like Felicia Maxime. While everyone does their part (special mention to Ida Engvoll who plays their mother, Carina), it is young Maxime who carries the film on her shoulders. The stage play in which Agnes stars fits perfectly into the narrative structure, requiring her to dig deep into her life to play the intense role. Both that and the music (across various junctures) add heft to an already great script.

If there is one fine scene that stays with me (in a sea of many), it is Carina unwilling to accept the news from the doctors at hospital. Denial, the first stage of grief.

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