Directed by Dagur Kari. Finland. 2003.

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It is a wonder how films like these are not seen by more people.  I first saw this film at the London Film Festival of 2003, and on the success of one Friday night screening at that festival it earned a UK release in May the next year through Artificial Eye and has since been televised on BBC Four who show the best of World cinema and yet if you mentioned to most cinema goers it would leave a nonplussed expression if that person did not read Sight and Sound.

Art cinema by the confines of its nationality and language, it is an earthly story with characters not unknown to independent cinema.  An outsider (by complexion, behaviour and family) is going about his daily life, until a new girl starts working at the local garage.  We see his encounters with his drunken father, flustered psychiatrist, angry teacher and ageing grandmother.

The film shows how Iceland is not shut off from civilisation; the characters mention Japanese movies, Reggae music and European literature.  It is this influx of material that causes people to leave such assumed countries and attempt to sample life.  This is what Noi attempts to do throughout the film.  It is not explained really as to why Noi wants to leave Finland apart from maybe a fear of failure or a fear of becoming the father - who himself is a failure.

Nothing major happens but there is a cartoon charm and intellect amongst the characters, you get an understanding of the life Noi lives and how this community interact and co-exist together, which makes the ending all the more surprising and easier to commiserate with.

Noi is also a loner, he wonders around his town like a stranger where he lives.  Noi spends some of his time in a basement hole with a lone light; he sits alone in the light and thinks.  Noi thinks about escaping, leaving and it is prophetic that his self-inflicted isolation brings about his chance to escape but with a price.

There is comedy and romance because you always need it, combined with beautiful photography and a wonderfully melodic soundtrack that suits the always light but sombre mood. 

The cast never stretch themselves, the laughs come through observation and situation, and there is a grasp of soundtrack and a belief in an extraordinary character - focusing on an individual in a small town rather than an individual within a country or nation.  

A film that cleverly works the circle of life narrative into a wistful hour and a half of wonderful cinema, that if not through its cinematography, will open your eyes to a new European director who has a bright future ahead of him.

Jamie Garwood
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