The moralistic plot of August's literary adaptation (it's based on the first part of Martin Andersen Nexo's four-volume novel) revolves around the adventures of turn-of-the-century Swedish emigrants Lasse (von Sydow) and his son Pelle (Hvenegaard), who seek their fortunes in Denmark. But life's no better abroad, with employment and lodgings secured under back-breaking conditions at a large farm. Underdog labourers find comfort in each other's company, while their rich employers in the big house can trust no one. Against the backdrop of the changing seasons, wide-eyed Pelle is on hand to witness relationships form and flounder. Despite occasional lapses into sentimentality, the film is saved by its performances and its uncluttered depiction of harsh impoverished lives. Von Sydow towers above the rest of the cast with an immensely moving, tender depiction of a man cowed by age and servitude. Some dramatic intensity is nevertheless dissipated by the sheer number of conflicts contained within the two-and-a-half hours running time.