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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.22.11] Iceland movie review drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Baldvin Zophoníasson
Writers: Ingibjörg Reynisdóttir, Baldvin Zophoníasson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

A very decent Icelandic coming-of-age drama sees sixteen year-old Gabríel visiting Britain for a week to improve his English skills, where he meets and befriends Markús, a fellow student who's far more boisterous and arrogant, and therefor gets them served alcohol at the local pub. On the way home from a drunken night out they share a bottle of beer and sit by a tree in a park. There's an awkward silence, and then they kiss.

It's a great screen kiss, perhaps the highlight of a film that unfortunately gets bogged down after it's first chapter...

On return to Iceland we are introduced to Gabríel's social circle, and the film spends time following his various friends, all of whom are at the age where raging hormones give cause for experimentation and everyone is looking for freedom from the home and their overbearing parents. We catch glimpses of Markús - a hairdressing student - every so often, but only briefly as Gabríel want to keep his sexuality a secret until he's ready to come out; which is kind of the problem with Jitters, as we mainly just follow him around parties, showing indifference to the opposite sex and watching as his friends drink heavily and sleep with each other. That might not sound like such a bad thing, but after a while the film begins to feel like a television drama which has been padded out to feature length, and could probably have benefited from being edited down.

The lead performance by young actor Atli Oskar Fjalarsson is perfectly good, he's a strong character, and it's perfectly believable that he would want to hide the fact that he's gay (hell, I was 21 before I told my folks) but it means that we have to wait until a last minute scene, very well played but long overdue, in which he finally confronts his emotions and acts, and it follows so much messing around with other minor characters that the sympathy gained during those first scenes has begun to wain. It's not so much My Beautiful Laundrette as it is My Beautiful Long-Wait.

Still, the film is stylishly directed, in parts very funny and all around well acted by the mainly young cast. The festival programme describes it as an "Icelandic Skins" and while it's not nearly as bad at that television show, it does have the same shtick of making the younger generation far more enlightened and sensible than their parents. The parents are all either goofy stereotypes or, in the case of one grandmother, interfering busy-bodies. The characters relationship with alcohol is a point of interest as they all (parents included) drink heavily all of the time, especially if bored. I gather this is a fairly accurate - though no doubt slightly exaggerated - portrait the writer is painting of Icelandic attitudes to drink and it's good to see the film confronting the reality of life in such an isolated and barren country, although I read that a pint of beer goes for about £8, compared to £3 in the UK, so they must dig pretty deep to get so sloshed.

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