The Netflix Swedish series, A Nearly Normal Family revolves around the Sandells. The family of three seemed to have a very normal existence. The father, Adam, was a local pastor who believed in the core values of the family. Ulrika, the mother, was a criminal defense lawyer, mostly busy with her work, and was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic. Their daughter, Stella, could never share her thoughts with her parents, and the only person she could trust blindly and share all her problems with was her best friend, Amina. There was friction between the three, but they preferred to keep up with the pretense. A Nearly Normal Family is about how one incident affected the Sandells and how far they were willing to look beyond their differences and stick together.
How did Stella’s traumatic past affect her present?
Stella had a crush on her classmate, Robin, and one day, she gathered up the courage to ask him out. Stella and Robin went for a swim together, and later she kissed him. But for Robin, it was not an innocent romance; instead, he took it as a signal from Stella to exploit her further. Stella repeatedly asked him to stop, but Robin proceeded to rape her. Her initial reaction was to stop him, but when he ignored her cries, she gave up. Stella was just fifteen, and she did not know how to respond to the abuse. Her body froze, and she had no fight left in her. The cabin owner entered and forced them to leave, and on her way home, Stella discussed the incident with Adam. After repeatedly making sure that it was non-consensual, he called up his wife. Ulrika assisted Stella in getting tested at a hospital. There were no signs of forced entry, and therefore she believed it was impossible to clinically prove that she had been raped.
That night, when Stella was still processing the trauma, Ulrika made her revisit the incident over and over again to make sure she had every detail. For her mother, asking a man to stop was not enough; she instead indirectly blamed Stella for not punching or fighting him back. She believed they did not have a strong case, and informing the police would only result in harassment. Moreover, the statistics clearly showed that very few reported rapes resulted in the sentencing of the perpetrator. But Ulrika did not realize that her decision to simply move on from the incident would leave Stella scarred. Instead of processing the trauma, she was asked to forget about it. But even after four years, there were moments when Stella was reminded of the abuse. Instead of blaming the rapist, she was convinced it was her fault. Ulrika made her believe that she did not do enough to stop the abuse, and therefore, she could not file a case. The family never cared to provide her with mental health support, further suggesting that they believed in shoving traumas under the rug rather than dealing with them.
Stella chose not to complete her secondary education and instead took up a job at a local bakery at the age of nineteen. She wanted to save money to travel the world. When Stella was asked about the tattoo on her hand, she remarked that her mother did not approve of it and that it was her way of rebelling against her. Choosing not to continue with her education was also perhaps rooted in her deep-seated resentment for her mother. Maybe deep down, she could never forgive Ulrika for letting go of Robin as easily.
Why did Stella lose her trust in Chris?
On her birthday eve, Stella and Amina decided to party hard, but at the club, Amina got busy with her university friends. The judgmental eyes of the college students made Stella feel worse about her decision to not pursue education, and she ended up feeling quite lonely. She was searching for someone to spend time with, and she took an interest in a tall, lean guy sporting a blazer. Stella wanted a fun night, and Christoffer Olsen assured her so. They hopped from an art gallery to an underground nightclub, and Stella enjoyed every minute of the night. At dawn, she returned home in Chris’ car, and they both agreed that it was one of the most memorable nights of their lives. While Stella was nineteen, Chris was a 32-year-old businessman, and Amina did not quite approve of their age difference. But Stella felt at ease in his company and did not mind the idea of dating an older man. While she was still figuring out life, Chris seemed to be more sorted, and perhaps that attracted Stella all the more. Their relationship turned quite intense in a short period of time. Stella figured out that Chris, too, came from a place of trauma, and as a result of his past relationship, he was careful about not getting physically intimate too soon.
After being violated at a young age, it was not easy for Stella to trust another man, but she believed Chris was different. The first time they made love helped Stella build confidence in herself and their relationship. Things started to get complicated when Chris’ ex-girlfriend, Linda Levander, made contact with Stella. She warned her that Chris was a terrible man with dark secrets hidden in his cupboard. Stella initially did not pay heed to her warning, but when she was all alone at his apartment, she could not help but go through the cupboard. She was shocked to find a variety of drugs stored in a drawer. From that moment on, she started to have some doubts about him, but he was quite smooth with his words and gestures, and Stella too wanted to believe that he was the one for her. Stella felt violated when Chris was adamant about making love on her parents’ bed. She did not know how to process the situation. When she found out from Linda that Chris would lose his mind if his partner did not receive his calls, she decided to do exactly that. She started to feel trapped in the relationship, and the fear of never being able to get out of it started to worry her. She neither responded to his texts nor received his calls, but Chris was not ready to give up. He waited outside her house, and Stella had no choice but to accompany him for a ride. Chris wanted Stella to believe that he envisioned a future with her, but that was not enough to change her mind.
What was the evidence against Stella?
Chris was stabbed to death near his apartment building. His next-door neighbor was a witness to the crime, and according to him, Stella was the perpetrator. He had seen her on the night of the murder near Chris’ apartment, and he heard them scream and argue. Even though he had not seen the incident, he had heard the screeches, and he was confident that Stella was responsible for Chris’ death. Chris had a good reputation in the neighborhood, and his death came as a sudden shock. Stella’s footprint was found near the scene of the murder, and that was the only trustworthy thread connecting her to Chris’ death. Apart from that, there was a broken vase in his apartment, and Stella’s DNA was also found there.
Adam and Ulrika went to a great extent to make sure that their daughter was not in danger. Ulrika was informed about Stella’s arrest by her former colleague, who was also the person she was having an affair with, Mikael Blomberg. Before the police arrived at her house for inspection, Ulrika went through Stella’s room and found a hoodie with bloodstains hidden under the bed, and she also came across her phone. Ulrika packed the two most vital pieces of evidence into her bag and stored them at the retirement facility where her father was admitted. She later burned down the hoodie and drowned the phone in the lake. Ulrika had her doubts about Amina after she sneaked into the prosecutor’s office and found Amina’s name present in the DNA list. Upon questioning Amina, she found the murder weapon—a knife hidden under shrubs. She carried the weapon to the retirement facility and washed the blood off it. She stored the knife along with the other cutlery in the facility’s common kitchen.
How was Amina involved?
To protect her best friend, Amina chose to remain silent. Ulrika helped her realize that she could be of more help to Stella. After Ulrika found out about her involvement in the murder case, she requested that she not report it to the police and instead present it on the day of the trial. Amina was also a law student, and she got the technicalities of law that Ulrika wanted to use in Stella’s favor. At the end of A Nearly Normal Family, we find out about how Amina became Chris’ target.
Amina never liked Chris, not only because of his involvement with Stella but also because he showed interest in her when Stella was not around. On the night of the murder, Chris met Amina at the bar. Stella had told him that she would meet her best friend that evening, and he decided to have a word with Amina before Stella arrived. While initially it seemed he wanted to make sure how Amina felt about his relationship with Stella, eventually, he admitted that he always had his eyes on her. When Amina expressed disgust, he bought her a drink and apologized for his behavior. Soon after he left the bar, Amina started to feel sick.
When she walked out of the bar, Chris offered to drop her off at home. He got hold of Amina’s phone and typed a message informing Stella that she had returned home. But he barely had any idea about how close Amina and Stella were. When Stella received the text, she instantly knew it was not Amina who texted her. The texting style did not match, and it was obvious that someone else had her phone. Since Chris was the only person who knew about Amina’s whereabouts, Stella realized that he might be involved. Stella began to have doubts about him because of the drugs in his drawer, Linda’s accusations, his disrespect for consent, and his patronizing behavior whenever she mentioned her friendship with Amina. Stella arrived at Chris’ apartment, but he did not open the door for her. She knew the alternate route to get into the apartment, and even though it was risky, she had to do it for Amina.
When Amina was questioned by the prosecutor during the trial, she admitted that Chris had drugged and raped her. The prosecutor tried to accuse Stella of being jealous of her best friend and murdering Chris because he showed interest in another woman, but that theory was proved completely false once Amina Besic admitted that Chris raped her.
Did Stella murder Chris?
Stella is finally acquitted of all charges against her. By introducing another possible suspect, Ulrika managed to convince the jury to dismiss the charges against Stella. She was aware that if they could prove there were two possible suspects at the murder scene, then it would be upon the prosecutor to prove who the murderer was or whether the two suspects planned the murder together. By introducing another possibility at the last minute, the prosecutor was left helpless. Adam was surprised to find that it was Ulrika who came up with the entire defense plan. She chose to keep it from him because she did not wish for him to lie in the courtroom.
A Nearly Normal Family ends with the audience finally getting to know what transpired on October 7th. After entering Chris’ apartment, Stella found him forcing himself on Amina. She was visibly drugged, and she repeatedly asked him to stop. But Chris continued to rape her. He got hold of a knife from the kitchen and threatened her with it. Chris could not accept Amina’s rejection, just like he was triggered the one time Linda did not receive his phone call. He always wanted to be the one in control, and when a woman did not care to feed his ego, he did everything to destroy them. We can only imagine that countless women had been his targets, and Stella, in a way, sought revenge for all his victims. Stella had a pepper grinder in one hand and spray in the other. With one swift movement, she sprayed the pepper bottle into Chris’ eyes and smacked him with the grinder. She helped Amina escape, but Chris continued to follow them with a knife in his hand. When the knife slipped off and fell on the road, Stella grabbed hold of it and stabbed him to death. Maybe she always regretted not reacting the first time she was raped, and when Amina had to live through the same torture, she chose not to spare the culprit. She could neither trust the law nor her parents to fight for justice, so she decided to do what she assumed needed to be done.
During A Nearly Normal Family‘s ending, Stella is declared free, and she realizes how hard her parents fought to bring her home. During the case, Adam was forced to confront Ulrika’s affair with Mikael. He believed it was better for them to part ways, but Ulrika wanted to hold on to the relationship. She craved his love and attention, and the affair helped her escape from her sad reality. Ulrika also had a drinking problem, and we find out that she ultimately chose to join group therapy to fight her addiction. Adam and Ulrika were still together, but this time, they were actively working on their marriage. Stella finally got to live her dream. She always wanted to travel the world, and after overcoming what seemed like an impossible obstacle, she was finally free. A Nearly Normal Family addresses the importance of processing trauma and the need to create safe spaces for youngsters. It also focuses on parenting and the importance of therapy when it comes to resolving underlying issues that can potentially destroy a family.