(The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival runs June 7-18 and HtN has a ton of coverage coming like Matt Delman’s The Gullspång Miracle movie review. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
World premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Gullspång Miracle is surely one of the best documentaries of the year. The film starts off silly but ends tragically. The road from A to Z is tortuous and filmmaker Maria Fredricksson adapts her style to meet the unbelievable story that unfolds before her. An initially heartwarming tale of long-lost half-sisters evolves into a true crime murder mystery. The trio of older Swedish women at the middle of the story have distinct personalities that organically create dramatic tension, and frequently elicit laughter. Since subtitles are now in vogue, reading a lot of them should not discourage a distributor from picking this one up for a potential Oscar run.
The plot is best left to discover on your own, so I will proceed in vagaries, with details that won’t spoil the twists. May and her sister Kari are looking for an apartment in Sweden, or a painting of fruit, or maybe both. They find the perfect painting in the apartment of Olaug, who looks remarkably like their deceased sister Lita who had committed suicide decades earlier. Were they twins, separated at birth? Olaug, facing an identity crisis, decides to investigate, and her clever detective skills reveal much more about the murky story. The family aspect is scrutinized against a backdrop of religion, with Olga feeling ostracized for her agnostic upbringing, playing into the nature vs nurture themes apparent in Three Identical Strangers—with which Gullspång will undoubtedly draw comparisons. Though both films include a suicide (maybe), The Gullspång Miracle goes further, investigating the mysterious death of Lita and the veracity of the confounding police and autopsy reports.
On a technical level, Fredricksson’s first feature is a blistering success. She seamlessly blends genres without ever feeling too flashy. Aided by her editors Mark Bukdahl and Orvar Anklew, she crafts scenes in such a compelling and entertaining way, often crosscutting quickly for humor, or returning to a photograph of Lita for dramatic effect. She opens the film using a Robert Greene-esque approach of having the subjects re-enact their own history, but later she shifts her tactics to focus on voicemails and audio recordings. She is also frequently heard on camera, talking to the subjects. It somehow all works together, even moreso as the sisters become fed up with each other. Is it sibling rivalry or something else? Olga does take a liking to their farmer brother, who is hilariously welcoming in a family full of personalities. Finally, the score composed by Jonas Colstrup is perfect.
The strong characters mixed with technical artistry elevates The Gullspång Miracle way above the average true crime doc. Plus it’s just an unbelievable story that would be difficult to conceive in the most imaginative of writers’ rooms. Even the title winks at us with its subtle poke at Christianity. Fredricksson has stumbled into a goldmine and come out with opal. We are blessed to have her tell this whale of a tale.
– Matthew Delman (@ItsTheRealDel)
2023 Tribeca Film Festival; Maria Fredricksson; The Gullspång Miracle documentary movie review