SIFF 2019 Reviews: ‘Sune vs. Sune’ & ‘The Footballest’ – Two Top-Grade Family Films

My two favorite films this year at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival were family films.  Sune vs. Sune is a Swedish/Danish film, brilliantly directed by Jon Holmberg, and The Footballest is a Spanish film directed by the humorous Miguel Ángel Lamata.  I highly recommend them both for good clean and hilarious family fun—to be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Sune vs. Sune features young actor Elis Gerdt as Sune Andersson, who with his little brother Håkan (Baxter Renman) and friend Sofie (Lily Wahlsteen), have just experienced the most delicious summer full of imaginative games, many of which revolve around Pokémon characters. 

But now the school year is about to begin and Sune’s older sister warns him not to be late the first day of fourth grade or trouble will follow him for the rest of his school life.  Despite this dire warning, he does arrive late only to find another boy named Sune (John Österlund) in his class.  His new teacher assigns him the name Sune 2 to distinguish the two boys, and from here it’s downhill all the way as the new Sune steals his friends, disses things he likes (e.g. Pokémon), and even wins the role of Romeo to Sofie’s Juliet in a school play.

Many vivid and hilarious scenes ensue as the original Sune tries to win back his girl and his rightful place in school.  Jon Holmberg, the director, is also one of the screenwriters; he has crafted a masterpiece of this genre.  The cinematography is outstanding—vibrant in its colors, and brilliant in its demonstrations of children’s imaginative play.  Even funnier, however, than the actions of Sune and his adorable little brother Håkan, are the scenes with Sune’s father, played by Fredrik Hallgren.  I nearly fell out of my seat laughing at some of his (unintentionally) crazy actions.  Sune’s mother (Tea Stjärne) who has her own jealousy issues when she meets the new Sune’s sophisticated mother, adds even more comedy.

The Footballest also features elements of boy-girl jealousy when a new girl joins main character Pakete’s futbol (soccer) team.  The most handsome boy and best player on the team Toni seems to be winning her over.  But Pakete and his teammates have even more serious issues:  they are one of the worst teams in the league and if they do not win at least one of their last three games, their team will be dismantled and replaced by—oh my!—a school choir.  To make things worse, their referees, during the middle of their next games, are mysteriously falling asleep and then being replaced by a ref who is clearly cheating with his bad calls to make sure they lose.  The kids must solve this problem and save the team.

So here again we have a film with “romance” and delightful humor, but with the fun of a mystery added in.  Director Miguel Ángel Lamata himself has quite a sense of humor, and this really came out in his film.  He himself was relieved and pleased that the American audience at SIFF laughed at the same scenes as their European counterparts. He praised the young actors who he said really bonded in the making of this film even to the extent of using only their character names during the filming in a small town near Segovia, Spain.  Considering that the main character Pakete’s name refers to a famous Spanish soccer player who was so bad that the name “Pakete” is used as a substitute for the term “loser” in Spain, this is a testament to the children’s professionalism. 

The children in this film are probably a grade or two older than the kids in Sune vs. Sune.  The boy who plays Pakete, Julio Bohigas, is adorable.  The director Lamata’s favorite director is Stephen Spielberg and some of his favorite films growing up included The Gooniesand E.T.   You can see Spielberg’s influence in these films, where children undertake difficult challenges, with little aid from the adults in their lives.  This film, as with Sune vs. Sune, translates easily for an American audience.  There were many children in the audience at SIFF 2019 and they did not seem to have difficulty enjoying either film, despite having subtitles.

Both films were based on children’s book series.  The Swedish film is based on a children’s series, and the Spanish on a series of mysteries featuring “Los Futbolísimos,” the soccer team.  This one was based on one translated as “The Mystery of the Sleeping Referees.”  The director is hoping to make another film in this same series. There are already other Sune films, but with other actors. Both the Swedish movie and the Spanish one would be great films for students of Swedish or Spanish, as the language, for the most part, is very clear.

These movies were reviewed as part of our coverage of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: SIFF