Play (2011)

Play (2011)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Writer and director Ruben Ostlund explores issues of race and class in contemporary Sweden in this drama inspired by a true story. Anas Abdirahman, Yannick Diakite, Abdiaziz Hilowle, Nana Manu and Kevin Vaz play a group of boys between the ages of 12 and 14 who come from African immigrant families; the boys are well aware of the stereotypes that follow black youth in a nation like Sweden, and they use them to intimidate other boys their age. The kids target three other boys -- two white (Sebastian Blyckert and Sebastian Hegmar), one Asian (John Ortiz) -- and with a variation on "Good Cop, Bad Cop" they force them to give up their cash and belongings, knowing that their victims will probably never report what's happened to them for fear of seeming racist. When the parents of two of the victimized children find out what has been happening, they approach the perpetrators, only to find others don't often approve of their actions. Play was an official selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
AB Svensk Filmindustri


Kevin Vaz
as Kevin
John Ortiz
as John
Sebastian Hegmar
as Sebastian
Nana Manu
as Nana
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Critic Reviews for Play

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (2)

The ambient soundtrack enhances the sense of outsiders' indifference.

Full Review… | January 13, 2015
New York Times
Top Critic

Wouldn't it be more effective if there was some range to the way the characters behaved, beyond just conforming to the roles of antagonist and antagonized?

Full Review… | September 13, 2011
AV Club
Top Critic

Play marks Östlund's extraordinary growth as a stylist.

Full Review… | January 15, 2015
The Dissolve

It concerns how our compulsion to construct and comply with an acceptable public face can make us act against our own instincts and self-interest.

Full Review… | January 12, 2015
Slant Magazine

Play isn't much fun, but it does skewer the way in which modern selfishness creates social division.

Full Review… | July 16, 2013

There's something uneasy about the knife-edge Östlund is working on, and his film is overlong and inadequately focused.

Full Review… | July 14, 2013
Observer (UK)

Audience Reviews for Play


Based on a series of real life incidents in Gothenburg, Sweden, Ostlund's film tells the story of how a group of young black kids were allowed to consistently mug children in broad daylight. I live in a country which, thanks to a short lived economic boom, became very multicultural very quickly. Growing up in an era when everyone looked and spoke the same way, race just wasn't an issue. It is now though and I've seen racism spring up into two distinct forms - Right-wing racism: The old school of contradictory statements like "They're stealing all our jobs" and "They're only here to scrounge off our welfare system". If it's proponents witnessed an argument between a local and an immigrant they would assume the immigrant is in the wrong. Thankfully this is a minority view mainly held by working class people of older generations, mainly due to ignorance and lack of education. Left-wing racism: A more recent development whose practitioners have a mindset whereby they think members of other cultures "don't know any better", and therefore aren't subject to the same standards as their own race. If they witnessed an argument between a local and an immigrant they would assume the local is in the wrong. This is a disturbingly widespread view, mainly held by the middle class. Both views are equally repellent and share one thing in common; a superiority complex, the former moral, the latter intellectual. Plenty has been said in the media about the former but the latter is swept under the carpet, mainly because said media is run by the sort of people who practice this form of intellectual racism. Thankfully Ostlund has dared to speak out and does so in skilled fashion, adopting a style many may call distant, but it's lack of preachiness allows the viewer to make up their own mind on the issue. His camera has a Michael Haneke style of detachment, frequently shooting in ultra wide shots. This allows his actors to perform amongst unsuspecting members of the public who pretend not to notice the fact that a gang of kids are up to no good, just as in the real life cases which inspired the movie. The opening scene is shot in a shopping mall and sees two young boys harassed and mugged of a mobile phone. The shoppers walking by have no idea a movie is being shot yet do nothing to intervene in the situation, most likely because they don't want to be seen as racist. The only time we see adults intervene is when the black kids attack one of their own gang, and later when the fathers of two victims confront one of their muggers. When the camera does get close up to the characters it's shot at kid level, like a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon, brilliantly showing how these kids have been let down by the adult world. In one scene the victims run into a coffee shop for help but the adults are unwilling to become embroiled in an issue which may upset their liberal worldview. There's a scene on a tram which is a brilliant piece of directorial coordination, revealing an important piece of information only when the tram turns a corner and lets us see a portion of the carriage that was previously obscured. The same idea was used by Dario Argento in "Il Tram" and if Ostlund has seen this it's a nice homage, if not it's a genius piece of film-making. At the end of the movie the black kids answer the phone they stole from one of their victims and mock his mother with vile homophobic language. Meanwhile the victim sits silently, his face filled with rage, on a tram as a ticket inspector fines him. Two sets of children have been let down by a society which no longer treats people as individuals.

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