Swede Caroline Image

Swede Caroline

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | April 8, 2024

Prepare for your gourd to be squashed by the competitive vegetable-growing comedy Swede Caroline, written by Brook Driver and directed by Driver and Finn Bruce. It follows Kirsty (Rebekah Maxwell), who is making a true crime documentary about a dark matter that’s occurring in the English countryside. It surrounds a contest in a town over who can grow the most giant marrow, which is an enormous British zucchini that can get to the size of a large dog. For years, the contest has been a battle between the two wealthy local gardening giants, Tony Knight (Neil Edmond) and Alan Bumbridge (Jeff Bennett). However, underdog Caroline (Jo Hartley) comes out of nowhere with a marrow bigger than them all.

Caroline’s entry starts up the controversy known as Marrow Gate. The judge of the contest (Mark Silcox) disqualified her marrow, claiming there was an inch-long cut in the vegetable’s outer skin. Caroline’s friend Paul (Richard Lumsden) disputes this vehemently. Paul vows to expose the corruption of the competition for Kristy’s film, as he is already obsessed with various conspiracy theories. Caroline starts growing an even bigger marrow with the help of her mate, Willy (Celyn Jones), who is always there to lend a hand. Suddenly, Caroline’s new prize marrow is stolen in a savage late-night greenhouse break-in, ending with her getting punched in the face. When the police can’t find the missing marrow, she enlists the help of her kinky friends Louise (Aisling Bea) and Lawrence (Ray Fearon). As the investigative team/documentarian proceeds down the path of the snatched squash, they start getting into some deep manure they hadn’t planned for.

Caroline’s new prize marrow is stolen in a savage late-night greenhouse break-in…”

Driver’s script for Swede Caroline has a lot of droll in its roll, keeping a simmering giggle going instead of boiling over with obvious guffaws. I did laugh my guts out during the open credit sequence fashioned after a Netflix reality crime show. That whole genre is satirized through the concept of elevating a local gardening dispute into a hard-boiled investigation. The laughs skew cheeky sometimes, getting a massive load of phallic innuendo out of its system right in the beginning. The wittiest content springs from Paul’s constant skepticism of everything and anything. One deep state theory of his is overlaid with one another, creating a sedimentary layer of permanent paranoia. His circular firing squad of alternate perceptions is a hilarious blinking neon sign for our times. Driver’s commitment to solid plotting pays off with a well-tended story instead of a skit train.

The dry style of humor cultivates a lot of connection with the characters, with the actors each harnessing an accessible familiarity. Hartley radiates how gloriously fed her character is up most of the time. Her schtick is very nuanced but hilarious. Jones is a sidekick’s sidekick; he has just the right demeanor to fill in the space left on the edges. Lumsden serves up helping after helping of rollicking reality-denying with panache, setting up several depth charges of tee-hees.

Swede Caroline also hits that chime that the cottage core crowd will find irresistible. If you relish the feeling of galoshes stuck in patches of mud, this is your jam. If you are not hip to cottage core, you may be surprised about how many folks enjoy seeing rolling green meadows while rolling green reefers. Fans of folk horror should take note as well, as the woods do go dark and deep in this one. This is a fine romp if you want to veg out for a bit.

Swede Caroline (2024)

Directed: Brook Driver, Finn Bruce

Written: Brook Driver

Starring: Jo Hartley, Richard Lumsden, Celyn Jones, Aisling Bea, Ray Fearon, Neil Edmond, Jeff Bennett, Mark Silcox, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Swede Caroline Image

"…a fine romp if you want to veg out for a bit."

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