Zlín Film Fest Review: ‘There Should be Rules’ an Appealing Swedish Coming-of-Age Tale

A teen girl struggles to survive a post-pubescent summer in the Swedish coming-of-age film There Should be Rules, which skirts by on little but the appeal of its young lead and her two co-stars for much of the running time before interest begins to wane.

Directed by Linda-Maria Birbeck, who also adapted the story from a Swedish novel by Lina Arvidsson, Rules nicely captures the kind of go-nowhere angst a young woman encounters during a summer vacation spent in her rural hometown.

But it also reflects that go-nowhere angst for the viewer, and the lack of much in the way of plot will limit its success among most audiences.

Anna Hägglin stars as Mia, a teenager dealing not only with her own puberty and ambiguous feelings towards men, but also trouble at home: her single mother (Annika Hallin) seems to be more interested in her own dating life than her daughter, and an well-intentioned but alcoholic father (Fredrik Gunnarsson) seems little more than a burden.

Mia escapes the doldrums of her daily life with her friends Mijiam (Lo Salmson) and Karl (Ludvig Särnklint), who shoot the shit in what appear to be a makeshift shaft in the middle of a junkyard.

When Mijian’s relationship with a much older man (Mads Korsgaard) begins to take her time away from her friends, however, a large part of Mia’s personal identity becomes threatened.

Much of the subsequent story revolves around Mia and Karl’s attempts to covertly observe their friend’s illicit relationship and even dream up a plan end it.

There Should be Rules is proficiently staged and shot, and nicely captures the feel of being at that age in that kind of locale (with few establishing shots, the actual setting of the film in rural Sweden is rather ambiguous).

It’s greatly boosted by the three young leads, particularly the two girls, tasked with carrying the majority of the film without much plot getting in the way. Both offer winning performances, and only a couple scenes (including one featuring a popstar on a poster) feel inauthentic.

Rules should hold high appeal for teen viewers, and especially those that can relate to the main characters. The broad strokes the filmmakers use fail to create significant identity for the world of the film, but ensure a wider reach. Still, there’s too little story here to attract an audience outside of its target demographic


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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