A Day and a Half, or En Dag och en Halv, is a new Swedish thriller-drama film on Netflix that does stand out from the list of average non-English films on the streaming platform. Claimed to be inspired by true events, the film follows the actions of a man named Artan, who enters a medical center and holds his estranged wife captive, demanding to be reunited with his daughter Cassandra. A Day and a Half does raise important questions, sometimes blurring the lines of who to sympathize with, and is overall quite an effective watch.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
A Day and a Half begins on a hot summer day in a Swedish city when a man walks into a medical center and asks to meet with someone named Louise. As the receptionist at the place tells him to wait for his turn, the man claims that he already has an appointment with Louise and that she happens to be his wife. The man’s name is soon revealed to be Artan, and he quickly grows impatient and nervous with time, seeming desperate to meet Louise. When the receptionist explains that the woman is busy with a patient and that Artan cannot force his way into a meeting like this, all hell breaks loose. Artan pulls out a handgun and points it around, threatening to shoot if he is not allowed to meet his wife right away.
Hearing all this commotion, Louise comes out to check and sees Artan with a gun, posing a threat to everyone at the clinic. The man now immediately pulls Louise close to him and takes her hostage, angrily asking why she had not met him earlier as scheduled. Gradually, it is revealed that Artan is extremely angry at the fact that he has not been allowed to meet his daughter, Cassandra, as he claims that Louise has kidnapped and hidden the girl somewhere. His demand is very clear—that Louise take him to Cassandra and hand over the daughter to him, or he will kill her and then shoot himself dead.
Within a short time, the police also get involved, as they are alerted by people inside the clinic. But their negotiation with Artan begins on the back foot, as the man demands that only one representative come up in an unclothed state so that he can ensure his own safety. Because Artan is in possession of a gun and a backpack that might contain bombs, the Special Task Force needs to be called, but the force is unfortunately away on a different mission. Seeing no other option, the police chief, Lukas, goes into the clinic and tries to manage the situation. Since he has to listen to the fugitive’s demands for the time being, Lukas arranges for an unmarked car in which he drives away with Artan and the latter’s hostage, Louise. Thus begins a long and tense journey as Lukas tries to negotiate some deal with Artan, who remains determined to reunite with his daughter.
What Had Happened Between Artan And Louise?
When the film first begins, and Artan takes his wife hostage, the man instantly comes off as a deeply disturbed individual who has no care for anyone else in the world. He is only concerned with his extreme desire to meet his daughter and, before that, his wife, and there is enough sense of toxic masculinity and overpowering ego as well. Artan seems as irked by not being able to see his daughter as he is by Louise not going to meet him at the café like they had earlier planned. He seems to be questioning the estranged wife’s audacity to have ignored his meeting, to have left him, and also to have gotten involved romantically with another colleague. Despite Louise mentioning multiple times that she is not involved in any such relationship, Artan’s toxicity does not let these words seep through into him. He still cannot believe that Louise has decided to end their marriage, and therefore, he almost sees the woman as his own property. Artan’s character comes off as heavily flawed and extremely vile, but it is also gradually revealed that there was a past that perhaps triggered him even more. Artan is definitely an abusive man who is deranged beyond the sensibility of right and wrong, but the events in his and Louise’s past also act as fodder in this regard.
A major characteristic about Artan is that he is not Swedish by nationality but is actually an Albanian who settled in Sweden later in life. This information seems to have been used against the man multiple times in the past, and Artan has definitely faced discrimination because of this. He has been called an Arab and feared for his ethnicity without any reason. So much so that when the police and media now fear that he might be carrying bombs inside his backpack, Artan is convinced that the only reason for such a report is that he is an immigrant. Although Lukas does search the bag and finds only toys bought for little Cassandra inside it, he does not immediately report this to his colleagues, and therefore, Artan is understandably mistaken as a terrorist because of the situation. But to him, this is once again an issue of discrimination.
Louise had seemingly not done anything serious in life for a considerable amount of time, and she just went around traveling countries and enjoying herself. She had met Artan during her travels, and the two had gotten intimate and became parents to Cassandra. They had married and moved back to Sweden as well, but the marriage did not last very long. It is mentioned that Louise suffered from a terrible psychosis episode because of which she acted very erratically, including with the baby, and she also had to spend a long time away from the family while receiving treatment. While this is one of the major reasons for the couple to have broken apart, it does not take much to guess that Artan was abusive and aggressive before, and his behavior could have indirectly led to Louise’s situation. Artan was reportedly absent from his wife’s life during her pregnancy, apparently gambling away money, and the man similarly abandoned his wife when she fell sick. Instead of providing support, Artan got romantically involved with another woman and even let her take care of Cassandra for some time.
There is still a real sense of dominance and authority in how Artan charges Louise for the various problems that they faced during their marriage. The man has no idea or understanding of mental illness, and to him, all of Louise’s actions were meant to hurt and belittle him. His own acts of infidelity do not count much because he had realized his mistakes and ended the affair after some time, but his suspicions of Louise having an affair with a colleague are enough to make him kidnap the wife and punch the colleague. When Louise finally decided to end the marriage and sent divorce papers to Artan, he refused to sign them. He still, almost proudly, claims that he still had not signed the papers, and therefore, the two were not yet divorced. The man also questions why Louise is not wearing her wedding ring, almost not even considering the fact that the couple is not together anymore.
But along with all of Artan’s flaws, there is also the fact that, through this marriage, he was surely subjected to a very twisted and abusive situation owing to Louise’s parents. We are introduced to the woman’s parents when the car reaches their house, and Artan eventually kidnaps Cassandra from the place, too. The father, Stefan, is clearly a racist man who had perhaps bullied Artan around before this whole situation, and it does not take too long for the man to bring out his hateful self. Stefan goes on a racist rant against Artan, and he also attempts to shoot the man dead himself, not caring that this puts Louise and Cassandra’s lives at immense risk. When the mother walks in, she too is quite dominating and hateful, but towards Louise and not the son-in-law. Even in such a serious and tense situation, the mother blames Louise for all that was happening, and their clash of opinions, which has existed throughout their lives, is now very visible.
It is very clear that Artan had always been made to feel like an unwanted outsider by his parents-in-law, not just ethnically but in an overall sense. While the man’s reaction to it can never be justified, there is a sense that he had been pushed back into a corner by everyone around him, and his retaliation stemmed from this. Nonetheless, Artan’s turning violent definitely suggests that aggression and brutality were part of who he always was. Even though he does let everyone else at the clinic walk away unharmed, his abusive treatment of Louise is to be noted.
How Does Lukas Help The Situation By Sharing About His Own Life?
In a situation that can take wild turns at any moment, police officer Lukas keeps a level head and bravely keeps it from escalating any further. He realizes after some time that Artan is not a hardened criminal without any emotional sensibility, and therefore, the perpetrator can be manipulated using emotions. Gradually, over time, Lukas makes Artan realize that he was committing a grave mistake with regard to how his daughter will remember his actions. The police officer shares about his own life in the process, and this majorly helps the situation as Artan feels like he can relate to Lukas.
Lukas also used to be married once but is now divorced from his wife. But despite the divorce, he is still in touch with his ex-wife, owing to the fact that they have two children together. He reveals that the reason for the failure of his marriage was that he had cheated on his wife with another woman. This affair did not work out in the long term either, as there was admittedly no love in it, and so Lukas now lives a lonely life. He mentions that although his daughter was fine with the divorce and would behave well with him, his son could never get over the fact that Lukas had cheated on his mother. After some considerable years added to his age, the man realized that no good had come from his acts and that they had only caused more harm to himself and everyone around him.
As Lukas tells Artan towards the end of A Day and a Half, one can only do the right thing in life and correct one’s mistakes from the past. Unlike Artan, Lukas never mentions any of the problems in his marriage except for his own infidelity, which he holds responsible for the divorce. It is Lukas who instills in Artan the sense that his violent actions will only make Cassandra remember him as a criminal who held her mother captive, and there will be no love between the daughter and the father. Ultimately, Lukas is genuinely able to reach out to Artan, as the latter even allows him to call up his son and talk to him, for it was the son’s birthday. When Lukas finally steps out of the car to bring coffee, Artan does seem to have changed for the better.
What Happens To Artan And Louise?
After holding his wife and daughter captive inside the moving car for almost a day and a half, Artan initially wanted to flee the country with his family. When no airplane agreed to let him fly, Artan managed to convince the authorities to arrange for him a boat that would take him and his family to Poland, from where he would return to his native Albania. The Swedish police, together with the Albanian embassy, also gave Artan a deal that he could return to his country without any repercussions for his actions if he let Louise and Cassandra go. However, as Artan himself states, he has nobody else in his life other than his estranged wife and daughter. The man is desperate to get back with his family once again and fails to accept that his marriage has ended.
There is simply no other life that Artan knows, and he ultimately comes off as a heavily deranged but grieving man who has lost control over his emotions and has taken violence as a last resort. But Lukas’s words in the final part do work on the man, as he understands that he is only doing himself and his family more harm by holding them captive. Artan ultimately decides to give up and hands over the gun to Louise, who doesn’t waste a moment and quickly throws the gun out of the window. This action is naturally followed by the police and Special Task Force officials swarming the car and pulling Artan out. Both Louise and Cassandra are ultimately safe and left inside the car, while Artan is arrested and taken away from the scene. During A Day and a Half’s ending, Artan turns and looks at his family for one last time, for he does know that this is the last time he will see them. This is the only time in the film that the man smiles, and we are left to wonder whether there cannot be even a slight feeling of sympathy for this deeply flawed man.