When police close in on a man wanted for murder, he evades their capture and goes on the run with his young daughter, escaping deep into the forests where they try to live as best they can.
Fredrik Edfeldt’s melancholic yet poignant film is more of a mood piece than the thriller its premise may suggest. He treats the wilderness as a world unto its own, where the atmosphere seems sealed off and almost frozen in time. He achieves an incredible sense of stillness that is at once beautiful and eerie which only accentuates the focus on the father-daughter relationship at the centre of it.
Despite their situation, or perhaps because of it, the two of them grow closer and the film hints that solitude from the bustling everyday world might be the solver of problems or at least the ailment to an otherwise awkward familial relationship in need of nurturing.
Much of the believability of this relationship, added to the grounded nature of the way its written, is the performances by Jakob Cedergren and Clara Christiansson. Cedergren is fascinating as the father conflicted between evading police and wanting his daughter to live a normal life (he tries to make best of the basic things the woods provide), while Christiansson is beguiling as the daughter who follows her dad into a wilderness abyss that can only end badly.
The film builds slowly, ever revealing back-story (including some stark flashbacks) as to why they’re on the run. It’s gripping in its own quiet way but never does it feel the need to kick things up into generic Scandinavian thriller territory (it would have been so easy to try and make this run in the same vein as The Killing) – even some of its chase sequences are shot in beautiful, dream-like so-mo.
While the film appears to falter in a last act with a built up moment that is quickly abandoned for a more drawn out conclusion (not to mention a bizarre and out of place dream sequence), it picks things up again with an emotional send-off that makes you reflect on all that you’ve seen before. Peppered with a wistful score and set amidst often stunning landscape, Sanctuary (or Faro, to use its original language title) is a melancholic and quietly powerful exploration of seclusion, family relationships and parental responsibility.