(vt Mio in the Land of Faraway) Norwegian/Swedish/Russian movie (1987). Nordisk Tonefilm/Gorky/Norway Film Development/Swedish Film Institute/Filmhuset/Sovinfilm. Pr Ingemar Ejve. Dir Vladimir Grammatikov. Vfx Derek Meddings. Screenplay William Aldridge. Based on Mio, My Son (1954) by Astrid Lindgren. Starring Christian Bale (Benke/Jum-Jum), Timothy Bottoms (The King), Igor Isulovitch (Eno), Christopher Lee (Kato), Sverre Anker Ousdal (The Swordmaker), Nicholas Pickard (Bo/Mio), Geoffrey Staines (The Spirit), Linn Stokke (Mrs Lundin), Susannah York (The Weaver Woman). 95 mins. Colour.
Bullied Stockholm orphan Bo dreams of his long-lost father. Titania-like local shopkeeper Mrs Lundin asks him to mail a postcard for her at a particular mailbox. But the postcard is addressed to the King of the Land of Faraway, and announces that Bo is the one this king has been seeking – his long-lost son. She has given him also a Magic apple, which proves the key to the Portal leading to the Land of Faraway, the gatekeeper being a Genie (in effect) who springs from an empty bottle left in the gutter. There, on Green Meadow Island, Bo is welcomed by his father, the king, as Mio – his True Name. There, too, Mio and Jum-Jum – who in our Reality is Bo's best friend Benke – undergo various adventures before driving the murderous Kato, Faraway's child-hating Dark Lord, from the land.
The early parts of TLOF, where it is an Urban Fantasy based on the wish-fulfilment Perceptions of young Bo – are beautifully effective. Later, though, TLOF becomes cliché-ridden and turgid. The commercial territory TLOF is attempting to explore is that of The Neverending Story (1984). Lindgren herself ventured into this territory long before Michael Ende, yet TLOF rewards her pioneering efforts with a movie that seems tired, imitative and cynical. [JG]