Disa (Maria Sid) is one very disappointed woman.
Disappointed by life, by the way a resolute playing by the rules – husband TICK! Kids TICK! Job TICK! Compliant acquiescing to everything expected of her TICK! – seems to be have yielded her nothing but dashed hopes and dreams.
Though she is dangerously close as a result to living out her life in the town of Falun as some sort of morosely-sad zombie Eeyore, shuffling rather non-committedly and half-heartedly through life, Maria Blom’s wryly-amusing and unexpectedly heartfelt film Hallå hallå instead presents us with a woman who simply wants a forward if she can just find it.
Dumped by her high school sweetheart husband Laban (Calle Jacobsson) for a younger, better-dressed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed model by the name of Camilla (Isabelle von Saenger), and working the night shift with a bunch of malcontented fellow nurses at a hospital under imminent threat of layoffs, Disa, bereft of friends, a car – which she can’t afford though she tells her daughters she is doing without for reasons of ecological conscience, a flimsy excuse they see right through – and no real sense of purpose, Disa can’t even manage the enthusiasm to buy a comfortable bed for herself.
Wearing a perpetual look of overwhelmed uncertainty, Disa, brought winningly, touchingly and amusingly to life by Sid’s finely-nuanced performance, has no way of responding to this slew of disappointments but to put her head down, interact as little as she can with the world around her that has so let her down and do her best to muddle, rather unhappily, through.
That is until a series of small, seemingly unconnected events lead her to discover that it is possible to fight back against life; perhaps not in the sort of Rocky-esque fashion so beloved of Hollywood where the hero vanquishes all comers and life continues triumphantly on, all problems solved, but in that small quiet way that real life, often the agent of disappointment, becomes the bringer of new life instead, or at least of its possibility.
And it all happens through a series of awkward, sometimes downright bizarre social interactions, all prefaced, naturally enough, by variations on the theme of Hallå hallå or “hello hello” which is used in the film as both the customary act of greeting, and ironically enough, as a means of keeping people at bay.
So often does it crop up that it gives the film a reassuringly percussive rhythm, a reminder that the saying of “hello” is not always a sign of welcoming but an awkward admission that we have no idea how to speak to the person before us in any meaningful way, and are using greeting them as a buffer rather than an (unwanted) means of connection.
Through initially innocuous meetings with over the top, garrulous Wenche (Tina Råborg) at a ski ramp where their children are practising one night, four times-married and indisputably upbeat Kent Beckner (Johan Holmberg) at the library where separated and divorced parents gather to exchange their progeny between visits, and angry, aggressive elderly patient Mary Jensen (Karin Ekström) at the hospital where she works, Disa slowly finds the will to fight back against life’s slings and arrows of soul-sapping misfortune.
And she does it, thanks to Maria Blom’s lightly-stepping, insightful script which pleasingly balances the light and dark of life, in ways you might not necessarily expect.
Rather than fall crazy in love, resolve everything with her loving but oddly fractious, unsupportive parents Ditte (Gunilla Nyroos) and Håkan (Tomas Laustiola) and acquire a new ballsy confidence from her Krav Maga classes at the local community centre – where she is, shall we say, a tad too enthusiastic in learning security-bolstering martial arts skills – Disa instead finds her voice, her willingness to take on the people and things that once terrified her into cowed submission and uses them where they count.
In her own quiet unassuming way, and with a great deal of gleefully amusing chutzpah and a motley family of new friends, she takes on life, nasty disappointing life, and fashions her own stinging retorts, one of which is the simple act of wallpapering her apartment with a design of her choosing.
More importantly, and shockingly for a woman who has always meekly taken what was handed to her, good or bad, she quits her job and spirits Mary back to her rundown home with its guinea pig, rabbit and avaricious, barefoot neighbour to live out her remaining days in the home she loves.
Yes, the acts are that simple, that real and ultimately, that profoundly satisfying for a woman who has left life dictate to her rather than the other way round.
Hallå hallå thus ends up being a delightfully small “r” call to revolution, expressed in a way that will make perfect sense to anyone looking for a way to take back life on their own terms, to reassert some sense of self, some stake in the process, rather than being incessantly pushed along to places they don’t want to go.
There may no triumphant epiphany, no great vanquishing of the forces arrayed against you, but as Disa rather charmingly discovers in a film that amuses and inspires in equal measure, there doesn’t have to be; all you really need are good friends, a few unexpected opportunities and a revived willingness to stand life in the eyes and dare it to oppose you.