Season 1 of 30° i februari or 30 Degrees in February is a 2012 Swedish production. This review is of season 1 only. The series is available on Netflix in the US and Amazon Prime in the UK. Beware the spoilers.
Many Swedes vacation in Thailand. Some move there to stay. The 10 part season one of 30 Degrees in February tells three particular stories. The three stories run simultaneously through the season, but the characters don’t meet until the end of the season. The three main characters are antiheroes of extraordinary depth.
Glenn (Kjell Wilhelmsen) heads for Thailand after chatting online with a woman who promises to marry him. He’s overweight, socially inept, and may not actually know anything about women and sex. He wants to be a father and he’s shopping for a wife.
The first woman he meets – the one he talked with online – robs him.
The second woman he meets actually likes him. She’s Oh (Djuangjai Hirunsri). She sees his big heart. She’s quite willing to treat him like an ATM machine, but she cares about him. One problem: she’s what the Thai call a ladyboy – transgender. Her family has rejected her because of it. For obvious reasons, she won’t be having children for Glenn.
Glenn does so many things wrong, but he also does a lot of things right. At times I wanted someone – anyone – to smack him silly. At other times I was amazed by his romantic heart and generous nature. He needs a lot of time to process the idea that the beautiful woman he’s in love with comes with a bit of extra equipment between her legs.
Lotta Tejle plays Majlis. I thought Lotta Tejle gave the most brilliant performance in this large cast, and there were some wonderful performances all around.
Majlis comes to Thailand with her husband Bengt (Kjell Bergqvist). Bengt is a terrible man. He’s a former pilot, now trapped in a wheelchair. He treats Majlis with verbal and emotional abuse of the worst kind. She’s put up with this for 35 years of marriage.
Majlis loves the ocean, the fish, being under the water. She learns from a Swedish woman named Sara (Rebecka Hemse) that she can take diving lessons. She and Sara become close friends as Majlis learns to dive. She must lie to Bengt to get out of the hotel room, but she does it.
Majlis lies to everyone about everything. It lands her in a hard spot. She finally tells Bengt that she doesn’t intend to leave Thailand and he should go back to Sweden without her. Since he depends on her for everything, this doesn’t sit well with him. They argue. She shoves him a bit. His wheelchair tips over backwards and Bengt dies.
Majlis makes so many wrong decisions after this. She thinks she’ll be charged with murder, even though he fell accidentally. She doesn’t report his death. She uses his credit card to buy diving equipment and rent a house, even as Bengt rots in the hotel room.
When the hotel people insist their reservation time is up and they must vacate the room, she drives Bengt and his wheelchair off the end of the pier. She’s happy and free for the first time in years, but she’s doing everything wrong.
The police question her because Bengt’s son (Björn Bengtsson) arrives looking for his father. She lies to the police. She clings desperately to the little bit of freedom she’s found, to her time under the water, but she makes a mess of things.
Kajsa (Maria Lundqvist) is a divorced, workaholic mother with two children she mostly ignores. They vacationed in Thailand 4 years ago on a wonderful island called Happiness. When Kajsa has a stroke and is told to take it easy, she takes her kids and heads back to Happiness.
The land and bungalows at Happiness are deserted. Kajsa buys them. They belonged to a man named Chan (Thomas Chaanhing). Kajsa is secretly in love with him.
When Chan comes back to Happiness thinking he can reunite with his wife and son, he finds Kajsa there. They begin a rivalry over who can have the best vacation resort that mostly ends in disaster. Kajsa goes back to her driven, overworked ways and ignores her daughters and the real possibility that she’ll have another stroke.
Chan’s son Pong (Sanong Sudla) is on Joy’s mind. They are both 14 now, after playing together as 10 year olds. The bond between them is still there, but in more adult form. They disappear together for several days.
The Big Storm
Episodes 9 and 10 deal with an impending storm and how it affects everyone in the cast both Swede and Thai. Some of the characters begin to meet in superficial ways as the storm approaches.
Majlis meets Joy. With 14 year old anger at her mother, Joy wants to return to Sweden without her mother and sister. Majlis feeds and shelters Joy briefly in a boat where she’s squatting. Joy later goes in search of Pong and is on “their” stretch of beach with him when the storm hits.
Sara and Kajsa come into contact in the clinic where many injured are treated after the storm. Sara is searching for Majlis.
Kajsa was separated from her children by the storm. She’s looking for Wilda when she arrives at the clinic. Glenn stumbled on Wilda and carried her to the clinic, unconscious. Chan managed to find Pong and Joy together and brings them to the clinic.
Glenn found Oh buried under some rubble and brought her to the clinic.
For a while, all of the cast except Majlis are in one place at the same time. As season 1 ends, we don’t know what the storm did to Majlis.
The scenes in Thailand were mostly filmed around Phuket, a lively city near wonderful beaches and some forested areas. The cinematography and the area were stunning making 30 Degrees in February a beautiful series.
The series was a collection of separate stories about miserable people desperately searching for a little bit of happiness and love. They are all terrible at it. These people are so flawed, so human, you can’t help but identify with their struggles and wish them well.
Although the main characters were thrown together after the storm, we don’t know their stories will mingle in season 2. Surely they must.
There was a mix of languages, so reading subtitles is required to watch the series.
30° i februari or 30 Degrees in February is slow-paced, character driven, and requires constant attention to the screen to read the subtitles. The characters are interesting, although deeply flawed. Season one is engaging and complicated. It must have been a real challenge to put together so many settings, so many characters and so many stories into one series. Anders Weidemann created the series.