Elling

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Per Christian Ellefsen, Sven Nordin, Per Christensen, Jørgen Langhelle
Director: Petter Næss

This is a super little film from Norway: simple, honest and, in a positive way, very European. No doubt when the American remake appears (Kevin Spacey has bought the rights) it will be worthy but dull, and replete with histrionics and overwrought catharsis. But if you get the opportunity I urge you to give this version a chance. Not all of you of course. I do realise that most cinema goers tend to hyperventilate at the prospect of a film with subtitles that is not full of beautiful people and does not go “bang bang” a lot. If you fall into this category then rest assured that you have my permission to pootle off and read a review more suited to your tastes: some other critic’s glowing endorsement of WEREWOLF ASSASSINS GET LAID should fit the bill.

For those few insomniacs that are still reading I shall tell you that ELLING is the title character of this film. He is a reclusive middle-aged man who spends two years in a psychiatric treatment centre sharing a room with the physically overbearing, but likeable, Kjell Bjarne. Both men are fearful of venturing into the outside world and having to interact with other people, but they are forced to confront their fears when, upon their release, they are given an apartment to share in Oslo in an attempt to integrate them into society.

Leaving the apartment is just one of the challenges facing the mismatched pair: buying groceries, answering a telephone, and using a public lavatory are among the increasingly daunting tasks that they have to overcome. But with each successive victory the oddball flatmates endear themselves to the viewer and, thanks to a humorous and engaging script, the audience soon warm to their madcap ways.

This is a low-key feelgood film that is sympathetic yet unsentimental, and if you approach it shorn of the prejudice inherent in the average multiplex attendee then you would have to be a hard-hearted dullard not to be rooting for Elling and Kjell Bjarne as they conquer their fears and strive to find their way in the world on their own terms.

5 out of 6 stars

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