With the holiday season comes dysfunctional family stories that reflect the reality of people living around us. Conflicts and bickering are a constant in every family, and these are the everyday problems of the current generation. Thank You, I’m Sorry is a Swedish Netflix original film about two sisters who find themselves in each other’s company after many years due to unforeseen circumstances. Directed by Lisa Aschan and written by Marie Østerbye, the movie was released on the streaming platform on December 26, 2023.
Sara is eight months into her pregnancy when her husband Daniel talks about wanting to split from her just before heading to sleep. Daniel dies the next day, and Sara is left with many questions regarding his decision to quit on her and the family. As her small family of in-laws and her estranged sister Linda join her in grief, there is a lot to uncover about Sara’s bereavement and the connection with her childhood. Linda, on the other hand, volunteers to live with her younger sister in the hope of making amends.
A lot of truths and uncomfortable subjects are uncovered as Sara is struggling with one of many things after her husband’s passing. Was Sara angry at her now-deceased husband for leaving her with too many questions? Why would Linda and Sara try to amend their relationship after so many years? These questions and many more will be answered in this one-hour, thirty-minute film, which is essentially about dealing with grief.
Grief is the overall theme of the movie, while there is dark humor splashed here and there to help people settle down and find hilarity in their daily lives, which are filled with sadness as it is. Marie’s writing does not display the depth required to handle the stories of grief. Everybody has their own way of dealing with death and life after bereavement, but injecting emotions like agony into the screenplay was required to understand the atmosphere at home. There is a lingering animosity between Sara and her mother-in-law Helen because of Sara’s inability to emote and cry, but that subplot is treated blandly. The writing could have given it layers instead of sticking to one dimension. There was no complexity explored around why Daniel wanted to leave Sara, who was about to give birth to their second child. Somewhere the set decorator and writers either abandoned or forgot to explore this subplot. It would have been interesting to find out what the relationship dynamics were between Daniel and Sara. A lot of their marriage anecdotes were shared by Sara in passing, but there was no justification for the anger she felt when Daniel left without any conclusive answers.
The writers also did not specify what the jobs of the leads were. Linda and Sara would be the caretakers going forward, but there should have been a proper understanding of what the women did for a living. The relationship between Linda and her younger sister Sara was hardly given any time to develop, for as siblings, they had been away for many years. Linda’s sudden appearance, followed by Sara asking her to move in, was a sudden move. The sisters had not spent enough time together to allow themselves into each other’s lives and make crucial decisions. Marie Østerbye’s writing falters in these portions. The lack of emotion in the entire film hampers the viewing experience because no scene until the end would leave you with a lump in the throat. There should have been revelations of the sort that are usually expected in stories of dysfunctional families. Some conflicts erupt out of nowhere, which stalls the narrative unnecessarily. The screenplay and the story had a lot of loopholes, and there was no clarity on many subplots. The narrative in parts was rushed, and it took a while for the makers to establish the story in the second half. A lot of the back and forth of anger and outbursts by the sisters was not executed well, and it felt uninspired. Even though the ending was predictable, emotionally charged writing would have elevated the film, and all the discrepancies in the film could have been forgotten.
The writers, though, rightly point out a woman’s right to grieve the way she wants instead of questioning her state of mind. Sara was expected to shed tears publicly but her mother-in-law was harmless and questioned the woman’s motives. Since the writer of the film is a woman, this issue was raised, and she rightfully shut down the king of a percentage of people who expect women to grieve in a certain way for the public and people in their personal lives. Grief is a complex emotion, and it could hit any person at the most unexpected time. This is the message the film was trying to make instead of expecting women to work on their emotions as per societal norms.
The direction by Lisa Aschan is plain and simple, yet there is a lot of authenticity regarding the challenges pregnant women face daily. The pain of a single mother and the worry of being alone for the rest of her life with two kids are well projected by Lisa’s direction. There are no fancy camera shots. The cinematography by Josephine Owe made the film feel way more personal, despite the screenplay and the story having multiple issues.
The performances by the leads didn’t convey pain thanks to the narrative, which simply forgot to entertain that aspect of the subject the film was dealing with. Sanna Sundqvist as Sara and Charlotta Björck as Linda showcase the plight of women as they are dealing with their matters. Sara is vulnerable as a woman who is only a month away from delivering her daughter, and Sanna, the actress, has done a commendable job even though the writing was subpar and did not explore her pain and anger. Charlotta, as Linda, was the yin to Sara’s yang and the calmer one as well. Charlotta is a good addition to this lackluster film and tries hard to be the saving grace as Linda, who could salvage her sister’s life and the film to some extent. Since this was a film made and written by women, prominence was given to female characters, which is refreshing. Overall, Thank You, I’m Sorry could refer to the sisters’ way of expressing their love for each other. Nevertheless, this film is impassive and devoid of the intensity it requires. You can pass this one.