Review by Sean Boelman
Audiences have grown to be obsessed with documentaries about unbelievable but somehow true stories. Maria Fredriksson’s Tribeca documentary The Gullspång Miracle tells a bonkers story that, while entertaining, might be a bit too confusing for its own good.
The film tells the story of two sisters who have a chance encounter with someone who looks eerily identical to their sister who committed suicide decades earlier. If you think you know this story is heading, we are here to tell you — you have absolutely no idea how this story is about to play out.
Like many great stranger-than-fiction docs, The Gullspång Miracle has an abundance of twists and turns. In fact, these twists and turns are so numerous that it often becomes difficult to follow the story and figure out what is happening. It’s the type of movie that would almost be served by having a study guide to keep track of all the people and movements involved.
That said, even if the movie is frequently confusing, it’s consistently intriguing and often entertaining. Of course, more impatient viewers may find themselves frustrated by the fact that it’s so difficult to figure out what is happening. But those who are willing to embrace the film’s “WTF” nature will be along for a wild ride.
The movie does boast some impressive technical aspects, but there are some inconsistencies in its presentation that can be a bit off-putting. For example, the first scene has a metafictional element that is largely abandoned for the rest of the runtime. It’s small moments like this that show the potential it had to be something bigger, but Fredriksson decides to keep things mostly restrained.
One thing that doesn’t quite work in the film is that it’s hard to see exactly what it wants to say. The movie doesn’t really justify why we should want to hear this other than the fact that it’s bizarre. There largely isn’t any deeper context or revelation about the societal circumstances that allowed — or perhaps forced — these events to occur.
The film also makes the slightly odd decision to present its subjects in a morally ambiguous light. In the first act, it seems as if we’re rooting for this reunion, but a twist happens somewhere in the second act that will have audiences wondering if these people are as genuine as they say they are — leaving them scratching their heads as a result.
The story of The Gullspång Miracle is certainly wild, and while some viewers may be put off by the fact that it is virtually impossible to follow, it’s mostly intriguing within its genre. You’re less likely to enjoy the movie if you try to make sense of what is happening than if you just let things unfold.
The Gullspång Miracle screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.