The movie is a romantic horror movie about the relationship between a vampire and a young human (boy.) In the wrong context (read: Twilight), that kind of description should warn a viewer (or potential viewer) that he/she is heading for the wrong cinema. On the other hand, Let the Right One breaks convention and makes a vampire romance something fresh and beautiful, without the the distracting (and somewhat nauseating) sentimentality. The film focused on the relationship between Eli and Oskar, rather the many other directions it could have gone if it had paid more attention to Eli’s vampirism and supernatural abilities.
Oskar is lonely because he doesn’t seem to have friends his own age (probably because he is bullied) and though he seems like he has a good relationship with his mother, a mother is not a suitable replacement for a friend at age 12. Eli is a vampire child who apparently moves from place to place with Hakan to avoid being discovered, so apart from this old man, she hardly seems to interact with other people. They find each other and form a connection when they meet in the playground of their compound. There is no cliche spark between them. Both of them are imperfect people; they didn’t get attracted to each other because one was astounding beautiful or charming. Their unlikely romance is not about sexual tension (although it seems Oskar is curious about that aspect of relationships), but the love and compassion between the two. Theirs is a simple relationship without ulterior motives or impure intents built on understanding, compassion, and ultimately friendship.
Friendship between two young children is totally understandable, but between a human and a vampire? Vampires kill humans on a regular basis to survive. When Oskar learns of Eli’s true nature, he is unsurprisingly shocked, but Eli points out the similarities between their thirst for blood, Oskar is persuaded to refrain from judgement. At that moment, Oskar seemed to rethink his standards of morality. After all, can he say he is so much better than a vampire who kills out of necessity, while wanting to kill because of revenge and hate? Oskar soon truly sees what killing entails, and the undeniable fact that Eli is a vampire. From that moment on, against all odds, the trust between them grew exponentially.
Although Eli is posed as the monster of the film, Oskar (and the viewer) never sees her just a monster. She may be young, female, dark, and obviously a vampire and if she were portrayed in a different way, I imagine a person could really isolate her and view her as an Other, an objectified being to fear and hate. Yet you can’t do that. You can clearly see that she has retained her humanity. Eli can still love and care for those around her. And this is what Oskar realizes. Even if Eli is a vampire, that doesn’t change anything between them. She isn’t a vampire out of an Anne Rice who charms her victims to play with them then drink their blood ones she tires of them. She never really pretended to be someone she wasn’t. They genuinely did connect and become friends.
This humanization of the other is one of the things that I really loved about Let the Right One in. Both Eli and Virginia are vampires, monsters and constitute the others in the film, but neither are shown are truly monstrous. They aren’t sadistic or cruel, nor do they wish harm on just anyway. In fact, when Virginia realizes what she has turned into, she would rather commit suicide than live as a monster. Watching the film, I felt that (apart from being a bully or the occasional meal) an average person should have no reason to fear her. Eli (and by extension Hakan) most likely avoids other people so they don’t catch onto her secret, because once they do, they’ll undoubtably seek to kill her, just like Lacke. Eli, in a way, knows that she is a monster. Her actions before she gets to know Oskar show that she has positioned herself as an other, but Oskar sees past that. He befriends her and stays her friend even after learning the truth.