The actor playing the dying kid is a pretty good actor, but besides getting sweaty, he always looks ruddy and healthy. Makeup could have tried harder. The actor playing the janitor who befriends him is also good. The effects creating the afterlife they imagine together are pretty decent. But in the end, this movie doesn't really say anything we haven't heard before.
Martin Freeman has become one of my favorite people to see on the screen, but that's not the primary reason I wish this had been longer. I wish it were longer, because the "twist" was not worthy to end a movie---it's the start of a movie! The earlier surprise was bigger, more startling, more impacting, more weird (in the classic sense). The second surprise is petty in comparison. More should have done with this concept. (Although: cool website.)
This one sped up my pulse as the abused family escapes father. But I can't tell French vans apart, so I'm not sure how to interpret that final shot. That opening shot though? A thing of beauty. Any frame from that shot could hang in a museum.
Watching this is a shortcut that I think can make anyone (at least, anyone who's been a boy) understand how someone becomes a child soldier. Not quite as horrifying as City of God, but close. I don't understand the controlling conceit though, of the story being told my a former soldier. Were the filmmakers concerned that if we didn't see other people's eyes tearing up, we wouldn't recognize the horror? I didn't feel manipulated by the conceit, but I'm not convinced it added anything. And the possible interpretation of White Woman Saves Black Man could send some viewers down a road the filmmakers probably didn't intend. Still. Affective. This is the one I'm most likely to remember.
This is like a seven-minute sitcom---like one storyline in an episode of Modern Family---but I think I like this Finnish version better. Although some of the moments are sitcom-heightened, the family looks like normal people and the slapstick has more verisimilitude and if that ends up meaning less laughs, at least the laughs are also more honest and real.
[EDIT: Added link at end of post.]