DVD Review: 30 Degrees in February

Starring: Hanna Ardehn, Mari Lundqvist

Apparently half a million Swedes visit Thailand every year. Let’s hope most of them have a better time of it than the sickly, depressed protagonists of 30 Degrees in February, who go seeking sun, sand, romance and recuperation and find mainly trouble and strife. There’s Majlis (Lotte Tejle), a housewife dominated by her testy, wheelchair-bound husband and desperate for a taste of independence; Glenn (Kjell Wilhelmsen), a lovelorn thirtysomething singleton who has come to the country hoping to land himself a bride; and Kasja (Maria Lundqvist), a workaholic single mum who returns with her two daughters to be a beloved beach hotel to recover from a debilitating stroke. But will any of them get what they’re looking for?

It has to be said that this load of sadsacks aren’t the most prepossessing bunch of characters on first acquaintance, but it’s worth sticking with them because they grow in stature as the series progresses. Majlis gets a new lease of life when she strikes up a friendship with tomboyish young dive instructor Sara, representative of a new generation of Swedes less prone to complexes and melancholy, and there’s a sharp humour to the scenes where the repressed housewife tries more and more radical ways of dealing with her horrible hubby. And through Glenn we get an insight into the day to day realities of life for the locals as he meets Oh (Djuangjai Hirunsri), a ladyboy from an impoverished background who in turn emerges as one of the most warm and sympathetic characters in the series.

Throughout, there are some meaty performances from the cast, especially from Lundqvist as Kasja, who buys the resort of her dreams in order to make a new start only to find herself wrestling with her inner demons and failing health once again. And there’s a very winning turn from Hanna Ardehn as her sensitive daughter Joy, who’s a helpless witness to her mother’s antics and who also harbours romantic feelings for a Thai boy – she brings a cool, delicate, lyrical Juliette Binoche-like vibe to her scenes which is a welcome antidote to the pensive dramas unfolding elsewhere. The series is also beautifully shot, with some lovely location cinematography. Not the easiest of shows to get into perhaps, but ultimately rewarding. 7/10

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