[Nordic Lights Film Festival 2019]

In its tenth year, the Nordic Lights Film Festival made the jump from the Film Center to Uptown 2, a welcome change! It meant moving the festival off of MLK weekend to a post-award season date, but it also meant not turning anyone away, and, most thrilling to me, *leg room*. I’ve enjoyed seeing this festival grow, and I hope it will start drawing in some younger attendees as well.

The opening night feature, Woman at War, was the best of the series, and I’m glad to see it’s getting a regular run. It’s an Icelandic film about Halla, an eco warrior fighting against an aluminum smelting plant in her community. It opens with a great action sequence where she takes down the power source with an arrow and a cable, then flees the law with the assistance of a sheep farmer who may or may not be her cousin.

Though it deals with serious issues, it takes the tone of a fairy tale. Halla sees herself as a hero, and so she is, even at one point cueing her own score. All music turns out to be diegetic, causing a lighthearted moment right away when the action score heightens… and Halla runs past the band, sitting in the countryside, playing as they watch her go. They and a trio of Ukrainian folk singers both underscore and undercut her self-importance.

Halla’s heroism is also called into question by Juan Camillo Roman Estrada’s “foreign national”, a character who is repeatedly detained under suspicion of everything Halla’s done. I think the film intends this as a criticism of her lack of awareness of the unintended consequences of her actions, but it veered too close to being played for laughs for me to be fully comfortable with it.

In the end, though, it’s a clever, moving, beautifully shot film that features a 50 year old woman as a complicated action hero (and also as her own twin sister). We are blessed.

Wonderland was remarkably un-Christmas-y for all it was set at Christmas. Two friends – one of whom’s marriage may or may not be ending – spend the holiday on a farm, which is run by a young family presenting a Christmas experience as a way to earn more money. It’s messy, ultimately safe, but not too tidy, basically a rougher, Nordic Nancy Meyers movie.

I spent most of the runtime of Handle with Care desperately hoping that someone would get this guy into therapy. It’s a Norwegian film about a couple who adopts a young boy from Columbia, and when she dies in an accident, neither father nor son handle it well. But, you know, I’m Norwegian. I get it. Repress repress repress!

It stars Kristoffer Joner of The Wave, who reminds me of a leaner, Norwegian Norman Reedus. Kristoffer Bech, Cutest Child Alive, plays his son Daniel, and since we only see them after the death of the wife & mother it’s hard to tell if the strained connection (and often outright rejection) between them is a mourning issue (see above re therapy) or indications they had never really bonded. Basically, it’s very stressful and everyone should be in therapy, thank you.

East of Sweden should have been my jam, but it was deeply frustrating because the majority of the plot hung on two men lying constantly to a woman about what happened to the father of her child. While I get that, sure, one might not want to confess to either committing or witnessing accidental manslaughter while also dealing drugs or trying to get out of one country and into another without papers for either, but then! Maybe do not get involved with the dead guy’s girlfriend! Just don’t do it.

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