Clip joint: child actors in world cinema

Guardian reader Jemima Laing presents her favourite scenes with some surprising true child stars, in movies from A Separation to What Maisie Knew. Which films with outstanding kids do you like?

Kåre Hedebrant, from film Let the Right One In
Never less than remarkable … Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In
Never less than remarkable … Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 16.17 EST

Full disclosure: I was, briefly, a child actor, and now I am the mother of one. These clips from recent films neatly put to rest the first part of that industry saying to never work with children or animals.

A Separation

There’s a chequered history of films by directors who miscast their children in films, but A Separation by Asghar Farhadi isn’t one of them. Sarina Farhadi is extraordinary. In this mostly spoiler-free final scene, she has practically the last line, and its delivery is heartbreaking. Who knows if the performance she turns in as 11-year-old Termeh is enhanced by the fact her father is directing her, but A Separation is all the better thanks to her inclusion.

We Are the Best!

It seems unfair to single out just one young performer in Lukas Moodysson’s wonderfully watchable tale of an all-girl punk band in 1980s Stockholm. At a push, however, I would plump for Mira Barkhammar as the bespectacled Bobo. I challenge you to watch the entire film and not spend the rest of the day chanting “hate the sport”.

Let the Right One In

Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar is never less than remarkable in this Swedish horror movie. I’ve chosen this clip because there is something excruciating about his goofy, in-on-the-joke smile at the beginning of the pool scene and the way his expression changes as he realises things are about to take a less jocular turn. You won’t want to find yourself alone in a municipal swimming pool for the foreseeable future.

The Hunt

Much has been made of Mads Mikkelsen’s incredible performance in this Danish drama about a teacher accused of child abuse, but I think Annika Wedderkopp as Klara merits similar praise. This is the pivotal scene where Klara’s vengeful but vague allusion to abuse is moulded into a concrete indictment by the leading questions of the adults questioning her. Each nugget of half-truth and every incriminating nod is punctuated with an endearing nose wrinkle – a reminder that Wedderkopp was only seven when she filmed the role.

What Maisie Knew

Onata Aprile as the titular Maisie appears in most, if not every, scene of this film and is a watchful, unaffected presence. Maisie’s interaction with Lincoln, played by Alexander Skarsgård, is deeply touching. This clip is just one example.

Which outstanding performances by child actors do you love? Let us know in the comments below.

Jemima Laing writes about being a child actor’s mother on her site, and is on Twitter: @jemimalaing.

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