THE UNTHINKABLE was featured as part of the 2019 What the Fest?! lineup. Before the screening, there was an interesting Q&A about New York doomsday preppers given by Professor Anna Marie Bounds. This was followed by a quirky 15-second short film by Sydney Clara Brafman called The Only Thing I Love More Than You Is Ranch Dressing. This lightened the mood for what I assumed would be another cookie-cutter disaster-porn apocalypse tale. I was pleasantly proven wrong.
THE UNTHINKABLE has a chilling premise: how quickly would societal norms break down during a sudden national emergency? Over the Midsummer Day holiday, while Swedes are enjoying the great outdoors with family and friends, strange events begin to occur. Explosions, presumed to be terrorist attacks, interfere with travel. Suddenly, cars are crashing everywhere and an unknown force is causing hordes of people to become confused. No one, no matter how proactive, is safe from the sudden turmoil.
The story begins during protagonist Alex’s teenage years. He and his crush Anna enjoy playing music together, but Alex has trouble obtaining an instrument to play. His strained family situation gets worse and worse. Flash forward to present day, where Alex has become a successful but unhappy musician, unaware of the chaos that will soon sweep through Sweden.
The cast includes Christoffer Nordenrot, Jesper Barkselius and Lisa Henni. The project, which started with a crowdfunding campaign, is directed by Swedish collective Crazy Pictures.
The film follows the intertwined threads of multiple characters. This is common for disaster movies, such as Godzilla (2014) or Zombieland (2009), but it’s often hard to connect with characters, or there are so many that it becomes hard to keep track. Luckily, THE UNTHINKABLE avoids this pitfall. All of the characters are compelling and fleshed out. Alex’s father Bjorn is paranoid that the power plant he works at is being compromised by spies, but his coworkers think he’s a loony conspiracy theorist. Anna reconnects with Alex when he returns to his hometown, but she is hiding a big secret. And Anna’s mom has a role as a government official in charge of controlling the disasters, delivering some of the most chilling footage in the film.
The film has a meticulously curated color palette of neutrals, bright whites, and muted pastels. Much of the film takes place outside, reminding those of us who are iPhone obsessed and/or live in cities (ahem) of the beauty and importance of reconnecting to nature and family while we still can. The sound design is fantastic, frequently incorporating lovely piano riffs and the sound of rain.
THE UNTHINKABLE is terrifying because it’s so realistic; every apocalyptic event in the movie could plausibly happen tomorrow. Breaking with genre stereotypes, it is also a beautiful story of the complexities of family and romance. A heartbreaking and stunning movie, THE UNTHINKABLE is a must see.