Alma Pöysti and Alexej Manvelov discuss starring as troubled couple in Swedish Netflix thriller ‘A Day and a Half’

The eagerly anticipated new Netflix feature A Day and A Half hits our screens this weekend, 1st September! We spoke to the film’s two leads stars – as well as the film’s director Fares Fares, who also wrote the film and co-stars with the pair.

A Day and a Half follows Artan, played by Alexej Manvelov, an emotional father who takes his wife Louise, played by Alma Pöysti, hostage at her workplace. A police officer, played by Fares Fares, tries to defuse the situation but ends up on a road trip with the couple, which will uncover personal truths about all of their characters.

We find out more about their experience working on the film with Fares, and playing these complex characters in such an intense drama.

Nordic Watchlist: The film states that it is inspired by true events – were you familiar with those events which lead to the story?

Alma Pöysti: We talked loosely about the story but had quite a lot of freedom to expand on the story with Fares in charge and developing the story.

NW: Talking about Fares, what was it like working him? Not only in front of the camera but also directing his debut?

Alexej Manvelov: It was wonderful, he is such a gifted actor who is so experienced, and he is a great director. You could never have been able to tell it was his directorial debut by the results.

Alma Pöysti: I felt like it was huge honour to be casted in this film, I have been watching his work all my life – he has been in my consciousness for quite a long time so it was great to actually finally work with him.

His knowledge and treatment of everyone on set was so professional and like Alexej said, you’d never had guessed this was his first feature film that he was directing.

A Day And A Half. Alexej Manvelov plays desperate father and husband, Artan. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: Alexej, you play Artan in the film, who is a complex character, who’s experience unfolds as the film goes on and this shifts our view on him a few times – how easy was it to bring this character to life?

AM: I imagined him being like a child, I think we have a bit of Artan in all of us. It is our inner child that we can control as adults but he doesn’t – life has run him over a little bit and he reacts to that as a kid who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions.

His actions are pretty bad so I looked into how we can connect our characters – what we had in common and bring that to life.

A Day And A Half. (L to R) Alma Pöysti as Louise and Alexej Manvelov as Artan in A Day And A Half. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: You spend a lot of the time in the back of a car during the film how was that for you both?

AM: Sometimes it was uncomfortable when we needed a particular shot, for example, at one point we were shooting from outside into the back and I was supposed to be holding a gun so we could see it in a natural way. I had to bend my arm a particular way and Fares was saying: “Bend it more” and I was trying to tell him I couldn’t!

It was still wonderful though – it was intimate and intense.

AP: I am the one with the gun to my head for the journey. This film gives you a very clear definition on where is the role and where is the actor – the role was living hell but I was having a party! To get to be with both these actors and carry this story was wonderful.

We got to explore these situations and what they could be – in a way you could see that Louise is a victim but as the film goes on you get to discover all these layers to these characters.

There were a lot of feelings we were carrying whilst shooting for a couple of months.

NW: As hostage films go, had you any particular ones in mind when thinking about the role for A Day And A Half? Any favourites?

AP: Dog Day Afternoon was definitely a reference for the film.

AM: Am sure you have heard of Stockholm Syndrome which we have a lot of experience with – caring for our hostage takers.

A Day And A Half. (L to R) Alma Pöysti as Louise and Alexej Manvelov as Lucas in A Day And A Half. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: There is a key sequence in the film that changes up the character’s story arc which might possibly put people off introducing their partners to their parents – what was it like filming that scene?

AM: I think it was one of the most challenging ones because the whole scene was around 11-12 pages which is around 11-12 minutes as a scene. Fares was determined to do it straight through and I think we did that, had some lunch, and he realised that maybe we might need a bit longer.

People might see that part and think; “Oh, my parent’s aren’t that bad!”

AP: It is absolutely a flipping point in the movie, especially for my character Louise, there are so many feelings of shame, confrontation, and pain in those scenes.

Fares’ character Lukas gets to witness this and he begins to see the hell we came from – it is such an instrumental scene. Almost like a Mexican standoff with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

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