Stolen: Netflix Movie Review


Identity, loss, and redemption in the coming-of-age novel that Elle Márjá Eira is based on the bestseller of the same name by Ann-Helén Laestadius. From April 12th on Netflix.

Image Credit: Netflix

Among the opportunities offered by the Seventh Art is the possibility of visiting places, meeting people, and listening to stories that for logistical reasons we would unlikely have visited, met, and listened to in our lives. Even if all of this, as in the case of Stolen, happens remotely, comfortably sitting on the sofa at home in front of a screen, it still remains an experience that we would most likely never have had otherwise. 

Elle Márjá's film Eira, released last April 12, 2024, on Netflix, in this sense is a more unique than a rare opportunity to come into contact again with the Sami, one of the indigenous populations of Northern Europe whose history, although not too known, especially among Mediterranean peoples, is full of injustice and brutality. For centuries their territorial claim clashed with the colonization of Scandinavia. In fact, until the 1950s, before the Sami decided to settle down, forming urban agglomerations and obtaining representation in the Parliaments of Sweden and Finland, their lifestyle was nomadic and far from popular, so much so that it was still subject to xenophobic attacks, discrimination, and racism.

At the center of Stolen is a story of resilience, traditions, indissoluble ancestral bonds

Rewinding the tape, it was the year 1975 when the TV series (broadcast on Rai 2 in 1977) Ante, a Lapp boy took us for the first time following a Sami, to be precise a child who owned a small flock of reindeer and her difficulty in adapting to a Norwegian school in the city of Kautokeino, a municipality in the county of Finnmark located in the far north of the country in Lapland, the same one from which the director of stolen comes. 

Between that show and Elle Márjá Eira's first work, other sporadic audiovisual encounters allowed people and their story of resilience, traditions, of indissoluble ancestral bonds, but also of violence and injustices suffered, to get to the the attention of the rest of the world by arriving on the big and small screen with a handful of works that have left their mark such as Sami Blood by Amanda Kernell and Jeʹvida by Katja Gauriloff. All of them, including the one in question, have the aforementioned themes in common, but also the story of how much the community in question had to fight to claim its rights. These are rights that she has yet to claim and for which she is forced to fight.

Image Credit: Netflix

A coming-of-age novel set within a social drama

The Norwegian director and screenwriter of Sami origins found all this and more in the pages of Ann-Helén Laestadius' bestseller Stolen, published for the first time in Sweden in 2021 before being translated and sold in over 20 countries and has received recognition as the best Swedish book of the year. This is why you decided to make a film adaptation of it which allowed you to return to talking, as in other works of the past, about a reality and arguments that you know very well. She did so by exploring the themes of identity, loss, and redemption through the gaze and female point of view of a Sami girl named Elsa, in what could be considered a bildungsroman set within a drama society. 

The plot revolves around her and a series of challenges that she has had to face since she was a child and which threaten her community located just north of the Arctic Circle from various fronts: from climate change which has altered nature to the new generations who seem reluctant to sacrifice and even commit suicide, through the protection of indigenous identity put at risk by xenophobia from a group of individuals who do not give up on exterminating and stealing the reindeer from the herd. The protagonist, played with credibility and great emotional involvement by Elin Oskal, once an adult will only have to fight against all this to defend herself, her roots, and the reindeer she takes care of.

In Stolen, therefore, multiple souls coexist, held together as it was also for the very powerful Sami Blood by the founding characters of coming-of-age. With the same intentions, the substantial difference, however, lies in Kernell's decidedly more incisive, political, and focused way of addressing the entire vast range of arguments with significant specific weight called into question and made available by a story like this, making them coexist with the obstacle course of growth of the protagonist in a hostile social, topographical and climatic environment. 

Eira, on the other hand, hints at and pursues for the entire duration of the timeline a balance that would also allow her to keep all the pieces of the mosaic together, but this does not happen. Here then emerges from watching the film this unsuccessful attempt to create a narrative fabric capable of containing and addressing everything. On balance, however, an imbalance is revealed which places the emphasis on some aspects rather than others. If on the one hand, the animalist, ecologist, and climate message arrives and reverberates on the screen cyclically and on several occasions, on the other the dispersion, didacticism, and inability to dig deeper with which important subtexts such as the depression, suicide, and xenophobia make the overall discussion less effective.

Image Credit: Netflix

Stolen: Evaluation and Conclusion

For her work, Elle Márjá Eira decides to tackle themes dear to her and which take her back to her origins, the same ones she shares with the protagonist of the book on which the film is based, namely Stolen by the writer Ann-Helén Laestadius. The result is a coming-of-age novel set in a social drama, that of oppressed people and still victims of xenophobic attacks, which she calls into question universal themes such as identity, loss, and resilience, mixing them with profound animalist and environmentalist messages. 

Unfortunately, all this incandescent magma does not always find the right correspondences and the space necessary to delve deeper and explore it. The result is an incomplete work, one of those that would like to but cannot, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for what could have been but wasn't. The author therefore misses an opportunity. This is why we recommend recovering the powerful Sami Blood, which shares much of the themes of Stolen, but with a far superior level of involvement and performance. Note of merit for the intense and heartfelt performance of Elin Oskal in the role of the protagonist and the photography of Ken Are Bongo which manages to capture and restore on the screen the wild beauty of the places that frame the story.


The film directed by Elle Márjá Eira is a delicate story that highlights the profound relationship between the Sámi and the nature that surrounds them, a relationship put in danger by the changing world. A fascinating story which however neglects its thriller side and does not balance the tones perfectly.
Overall Score