As well as the ANNIKA BENGZTON, CRIME REPORTER series has been produced, I’ve struggled a bit wrapping my brain around the character. At times, she appears universally driven to expose wrongs in the hopes of seeing them righted, but – more often than not – she goes about her daily life as if completely oblivious to the pain, hardship, and/or suffering she inflicts on those around her, including those very close. Like her husband. Like her children. Like her coworkers. Like those she investigates. Perhaps this was all a creative ruse, though, as the episode LIFETIME very strategically brings all of these disparate plotlines to a head, giving lead actress Malin Crepin some gritty material to work with.
How does she do?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
David Lindholm is part local celebrity, part police officer. He’s built a reputation on quality police work, bridging from the force to a force-to-be-reckoned with as part of a weekly televised behind-the-scenes procedural investigating high profile crimes. So when he turns up dead from a single gunshot to the head and three to his groin, everyone suspects the media will be interested. Annika Bengzton (played by Crepin) begins to slowly pull back the layers when she learns that Lindholm’s wife Julia (Sandra Andreis) is hiding a secret, and it may very well involve the identity behind who has kidnapped her four-year-old son!
Simply put, LIFETIME is the best installment of the ANNIKA BENGZTON series thus far.
To my delight, I give it that enthusiastic endorsement for a whole host of reasons and not any individual mark. For starters, I’ve already mentioned the reservations I’ve had with the character: as one who appears obsessed to ‘get to the bottom of things,’ Bengzton as apparently conceived and portrayed goes about doing these journalistic good deeds with what I felt was an air of detachment to those around her. Her constant refusal to split time parenting caused her husband to finally leave her (only this past installment), and she’s barely given her two young children an ounce of consideration. Granted, she’s good at her job (or so she’s written!), but up until this point she hadn’t come across as a person who seemed human. In fact, each successive story only appeared to have emboldened her quest to proliferate her identity outside her relationship as a wife and a mother, leaving those closest to her only wanting more.
LIFETIME finally gives the ubiquitous reporter a bit of a creative comeuppance – she breaks down from the pressures of it all. Now parenting alone while fighting her estranged husband for visitation times, she’s forced to take her children along on a newspaper interview … into a home for recovering drug addicts. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. It goes so poorly that her daughter wets herself, finally forcing the woman to realize what a burden her life choices have wrought upon not only the self but also the family. This pushes her to reconsider her position to limit visitation in the episodes coda.
But the greatness doesn’t stop there. From the onset, there’s a terrific three-way parallel created between Bengzton, the emotionally frazzled Julia Lindholm, and Nina Hoffman, a young female police officer drawn into the investigation as she’s personal friends with the deceased and his wife. Within this great story, the audience is presented with three strong women – each who has gone about being who they are with modest similarity, and each who are obviously scarred to some degree by the circumstances of their respective lives. They’re all trying to do right by those around them – Julia struggles to keep her hyper-jealous husband happy; Nina tries to balance the pursuit of justice against disenfranchising the officers she currently works with; Annika trying to juggle too many personal errands at once – and, despite their best efforts, everything around them only keeps falling apart. It’s a trifecta of performances – ultimately carried by Crepin – that fuels a tense story to its explosive finish.
ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER: LIFETIME  is produced by Yellow Bird Films, Degeto Film, TV4 Nordisk Television, Nordisk Film, and Filmpool Nord. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by MHZ Networks. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, here you go: this is a Swedish spoken language release with English subtitles available. (No, there is no English dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications, I’m increasingly impressed with the quality of the sight and sound that goes into BENGTZON; it’s nothing short of incredible, though some of the shooting locations this time around were far from the glamor of past installments. Sadly – as is too often the case when these foreign productions find release on American shores – there are no special features to speak of. (Shame on you, Sweden! For shame!)
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Without a doubt, LIFETIME is a tale that finally shows what potential there can be behind stories focused on reporters in a world that’s kinda/sorta left the reporting profession in the doldrums. Bengzton’s personal issues have always simmered beneath the surface – there’s obviously been friction at home and with her extended family – and it took removing her from that nuclear family in order for her to fully realize what was at stake personally as well as professionally. Kudos to the cast and crew for a deftly structured procedural that managed to pack an emotional wallop in under 90 minutes.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Networks provided me with a DVD copy of ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER: LIFETIME by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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