‘Stolen’ Review – Pretty Netflix Film Puts Its Message Ahead Of Its Drama

By Lori Meek
Published: April 13, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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'Stolen' (2024) Review - Very Educational, But Otherwise Dull
Stolen (2024) | Image via Netflix
2.5

Summary

While visually appealing, this is more of a preachy docu-drama with too little drama.

Stolen (2024) is ostensibly a drama, but it plays out more like a docu-drama about reindeer than anything else. I couldn’t recommend it as a work of fiction, since it ends up pretty dull, but it does provide an illuminating glimpse into a very esoteric subject if you’re into that kind of thing.

The Netflix drama (original title: Stöld) marks Swedish filmmaker Elle Márjá Eira’s directorial debut. Based on the novel of the same name by Ann-Helén Laestadius and filmed on location in Sweden, the film follows a young Sámi woman as she’s trying to stop the constant attacks on her family’s reindeer by residents of the nearby village. But it clearly exists to espouse a message rather than tell a story.

When she was only nine years old, Elsa (Elin Kristina Oskal) witnessed her neighbor Robert Isaksson (Martin Wallström) kill her favorite reindeer. Terrified, she stayed quiet about the culprit when her father took her to give a police statement. A decade later, Elsa is herding reindeer alongside her dad and brother, Mattias. 

Following in her father’s footsteps is something Elsa wanted to do since she was little. But the family is now questioning whether to continue living in the area and herd reindeer given the increase in hostility against the Sámi and the opening of a new mine that threatens their livelihood. For the villagers, the mine means more jobs and economic prosperity. The Sámi, however, are worried it will have devastating effects on their animal’s welfare. 

Stolen (2024) Review

Stolen (2024) | Image via Netflix

Police rarely investigate the reindeer slayings and simply report the animals as “stolen.” The local community is accusing the Sámi people of killing their reindeer to claim compensation from the local government. Amid the increased friction, Elsa regrets not reporting Robert to the police all those years ago and blames herself for the continued attacks on her people’s reindeer. On the other hand, Elsa’s insistence on becoming more vocal against how the Sámi are treated in the region risks making things worse for the community. 

Stolen is a well-presented drama set among the beautiful scenery of Sweden’s most northern region. The film has plenty of shots of the snow-covered mountainous areas and the northern lights. It also presents the scenes of reindeer herding with the explanatory detail you’d expect from a documentary. 

Further adding to the film’s educational intention are scenes where characters casually discuss details about the hierarchies present in the Sámi communities, their history, and their present struggles. While I did find it fascinating, it all feels too much like schooling without enough story to get the viewer invested in the on-screen drama. 

As characters, Elsa and Mattias only exist to voice the concerns of their people and have little in the way of personal motives or goals. Even when they argue with each other or those around them, the dialogue mostly focuses on the broader political issues of reindeer herding. Several points are repeated incessantly throughout the script.  

Robert is supposed to be the villain but all he does is constantly spew the villager’s general gripe with the Sámi. There are only so many times I can listen to the same character complaining about ice fishing and the snowmobile ban before I stop paying attention. It all makes for rather dull storytelling and comes across as preachy. 

I can’t recommend watching this as a work of fictional drama. However, if you want to be educated on reindeer herding and the struggles the Sámi face, you will gain a lot of knowledge from watching Stolen

I also broke down the ending of Stolen (2024) in-depth if you’re interested in how the conflict between Elsa and Robert is resolved.

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