Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | June 12th, 2023
The Gullspång Miracle (Maria Fredriksson, 2023) 3 out of 4 stars.
When Norwegian sisters Kari and May go on the hunt for a house to buy in Gullspång, Sweden (where Kari already lives), they are shocked to discover that the realtor looks exactly like their deceased older sister would were she still alive. Dead from a suicide in 1988, there is no possible way that Lita could be sitting in front of them. Instead, this is Olaug … who just happens to have the same birthday and birthplace as Lita. And yet, when they all take DNA tests, the truth comes out: she is their half-sister. So begins The Gullspång Miracle, director Maria Fredriksson’s feature debut. It may not be quite an actual miracle, itself, but it’s definitely an engaging mystery.
Based on the above introductory text, it should come as no surprise that the drama revolves around twins separated at birth. Or does it? As things go, the truth proves far more complicated, especially as our various characters prove increasingly ornery and possibly dissembling. Beyond the central riddle, there is also the prospect of a long-hidden murder coming to light. It’s understandable that honesty may not seem like the best option.
All the while, Fredriksson struggles to make sense of the developing story. Complicating matters is the friction that arises as Olaug gets to better know Kari and May, and vice versa. They come from very different backgrounds, no matter their shared genetics, the one more intellectual and atheist, the others deeply devout. It doesn’t help that given their advancing age (Olaug was born in 1941), they are very much set in their ways.
At its heart, the movie is about family, the ones we are born into and the ones we choose. What counts for more, nature or nurture? As such, the film recalls, at least at first, the 2018 Three Identical Strangers, but that documentary had the advantage of comparatively easy solutions. Here, Fredriksson is stuck with a bunch of unreliable narrators.
But make the most of it she does, following the twisted convolutions through every wild new plot turn. We jump from Nazis invading Norway during World War II to suspicious ex-partners to workplace threats and sibling dysfunction, the whole of it wrapped in a cinematic package that is often as funny as it is disturbing. Who says that narratives need to completely resolve in order to hold our attention?
Still, there are many unanswered questions here that beg further examination. By the conclusion, we can’t help but wish for just a little more research. With the plethora of issues raised, enough of them continue to gnaw at our consciousness as the credits roll. One thing is guaranteed, however: you will debate the enigma of The Gullspång Miracle long after it is over.