When Alena (Amalia Holm) arrives at her new elite boarding school, Filippa and the other girls start to harass her. But Alena’s best friend Josefin (Rebecka Nyman) won’t let her take anymore beating. If she won’t strike back, Josefin will do it for her. Daniel di Grado’s “Alena” is a look at sociology, adolescent anguish and mental instability.
Alena herself is an introverted misfit and doesn’t take long before she starts attracting the attentions of the cruel, stuck up Filippa and her eager associates who make it their mission to render Alena’s time at school as unpleasant as possible. Alena finds some escapist rebellion in her encounters with Josefin, an old friend named who is moody and antisocial and it quickly becomes apparent that Josefin may just be a little too attached to her former schoolmate. Josefin soon begins reaping harsh vengeance on Alena’s wrongdoers or anyone Josefin feels threatens their relationship.
Despite some degree of retribution in Josefin’s acts, Alena’s friendship with her is self-destructive. Alena is a highly removed character who often lets other people speak for her and her ties to unpleasant Josefin is an outward expression of the intense, guilt-ridden memories that won’t let her move on from an unfortunate past.
Based on the graphic novel by Kim W. Andersson, “Alena” is a psychological thriller that combines revenge themes with tough love. Alena is not popular and all she wants is to be accepted by someone. Filippa (Molly Nutley) rules the roost and doesn’t know how to be anything other than spoiled and popular. When the mysterious Alena comes along and shows real talent on the lacrosse team of which Filippa is captain, she becomes jealous and sets out to ruin Alena’s life. Moreover, Lena becomes friends with Filippa’s more bohemian, down-to-earth friend Fabienne (Felice Jankell) and this really ticks her off. What Filippa and her friends do not know is that Alena has someone on her side. The film deals with some very critical, contemporary issues of sexuality, but this is personally taken too far when Filippa mouths of and refers to almost everyone as “a cunt”.
Amalia Holm is quite good as Alena and plays her with such stillness that you sometimes wonder if she’s a time bomb waiting to go off. Her pale complexion against her dark gothic style haircut shows her innocence and purity with a touch of the unexplained and dark past that continues to haunt her. Felice Jankell is excellent as the beautiful and free-spirited Fabienne. However, Molly Nutley plays Filippa with such force that it comes across as a bit of a caricature. I found her to be completely annoying.
At times Alena comes through with a good scare, but unfortunately they are relatively few and far between. Some of the serious themes of sexuality become moments of laughable grunge horror and are completely out of tune with the more sentimental aspects of love in the film but overall, the film is actually quite promising and original.