Britt-Marie Was Here is not a remarkable film, but it’s just enough. It’s just enough charm. It’s just enough plot and character development. It’s just bittersweet enough. It’s just long enough. It’s just satisfying enough. It’s just entertaining enough to be a good option if you want someone to tell you a story for 90 minutes.
Based on the novel of the same name by best-selling Swedish author Fredrick Backman (A Man Called Ove), the film centers on Britt-Marie, a woman who has built her life around the routine of meticulously keeping house for her husband. When she’s confronted with evidence that her husband is cheating on her, she walks away from all that is familiar and into the uncertainty of a town called Borg, with a new position as a youth worker/football coach. Given that Britt-Marie is a 63-year-old woman who knows nothing about football, the kids are understandably skeptical.
It’s largely a concept we’ve seen before: a fish out of water trying to get their life together is put in charge of a ragtag sports team. What separates Britt-Marie Was Here from The Mighty Ducks, though, is that this is an adult movie. Not because of graphic content – there’s essentially none of that – but because of the themes; questions about life, purpose, and second chances aren’t likely to draw in the middle school set.
The film is also subdued in a way that makes it feel more genuine than a story this formulaic usually would. Although it dabbles a bit in the regrettable “older white person relies on non-white child for clarity and inspiration” trope, Britt-Marie mostly stays on the side of subtlety and avoids overt emotional manipulation. This is especially true at the end of the movie, when Britt-Marie’s decisions about what to do next don’t quite line up with viewer expectations and are perhaps more believable for it.
Much of the credit for the movie’s authentic feel goes to Pernilla August, who plays Britt-Marie with a low-level anxiety and uncertainty, even while she presents herself as confident and determined to the community around her. Her confidence becomes real in such a gradual way that it doesn’t seem Britt-Marie has really changed as much as she’s tapped into a part of herself that’s been buried for decades. That Britt-Marie’s nature and personality are consistent – she wears floral prints and perfectly pressed pants even through the film’s climactic football game – prevents the character’s development from seeming like a late mid-life crisis.
You probably won’t think much about Britt-Marie Was Here after the credits roll – and in fact you probably shouldn’t, for fear of wondering about things like how Britt-Marie got her job seemingly without having ever talked to anyone in Borg. But if you’re looking for a grown-up movie that manages to be “feel-good” without being emotionally manipulative, Britt-Marie might be just enough for you.