Charter is the sophomore feature of Swedish filmmaker Amanda Kernell. Following the success of her 2016 debut, Sami Blood, the director, is back with another challenging drama involving a strong and complex female lead named Alice played by popular Norwegian actress Ane Dahl Torp. Charter somehow subverts a common trope of the broken family, in a rare case where the mother lost custody of her children to the father. At first, the circumstance and result of the parents’ separation seem mysterious as we are not sure why a woman, who by all appearances is seemingly “motherly,” would not be granted the privilege to see her children.
It is a particularly striking fact as the film opens on an alarming phone call from her young son Vincent (Troy Lundkvist) sounds none too pleased to be living with his father Mattias (Sverrir Gudnason). Viewers will not be wrong to assume that the kid, as it is often the case in custody battles, is under a lot of stress as we realize his dad forbids him to communicate with his mum. Alice is frustrated by this situation and perhaps rightfully scared for him and his teen sister Elina (Tintin Poggats Sarri). She decides to head north to her ex-husband’s house to see them. Once there, she is violently pushed and kicked from the porch as the man refuses to let her in and speak to the children.
“…Alice rashly decides to abduct and runs away with her kids overseas by chartering a trip to the Canary Islands.”
In addition, it appears most people in town and from the system are against her, or siding with the man. There are always people around during supervised visits, which makes it impossible for Alice to connect with her angst-ridden teenage daughter, and the staff from the children’s school treat her like garbage. Even her legal counselor pays her very little mind. This adds to the mystery of what unspeakable act(s) Alice must have committed before leaving town without her kids.
But there are red flags and bread crumbs along the way, giving us some clarity as to what happened, and we slowly grasp that she has lost all hope. Then suddenly, in a rush, Alice rashly decides to abduct and runs away with her kids overseas by chartering a trip to the Canary Islands. She hides this impulsive decision from her youngest pretending they are going on a vacation to the seaside, but kids know better. They can see that their mother is not alright, and they’ll be the ones suffering from mental consequences from this.