Ulla (Edstrm) walks down to a rocky bank for her morning swim. She disrobes, jumps into the water, gets out and towels herself off before slowly trudging home. We'll see this scene, played out in real time and with tiny variations, repeated throughout the course of Anders Edstrm and C.W. Winter's hybrid of nonfiction observation and narrative filmmaking (both terms being applied very, very loosely). In between those morning dips, viewers will also watch the middle-aged woman do crossword puzzles, listen to the radio and sit staring into space. Occasionally, a creepy hunter (Ohlsson) shows up. Mostly, it's just Mother Nature, Ulla and us, along for the ride.
Audiences with infinite patience and no need for linear storytelling do get an intimate tour of The Anchorage's picturesque island off the coast of Stockholm, its landscapes lensed with loving appreciation. Past that, the experience of sitting through Ulla's daily routines yields little more than a travelogue and a vaguely contemplative vibe. Critics have compared the movie's fetishization of mundane rituals to Jeanne Dielman, but there's a structuralist method to the madness of Chantal Akerman's feminist-cinema classic. Here, we're simply party to a codirector putting his mom through meditative paces that are neither mythopoetic nor particularly meaningful, even by art-installation standards.---David Fear