A quick note – there aren’t many “black films” screening at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, but I’ll still be reviewing everything I see, regardless of content, starting with this one.
And yes, that really is the title of the film – the English translation anyway – directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen.
A wonderful, quirky slice of teenage ennui, and budding sexuality, set in a remote village in western Norway. Lead protagonist Alma is a precocious 15 year old girl, with an active imagination and an overactive libido. Basically, she’s at that age when teenage hormones are raging and, sometimes, unexpected and unplanned occurrences follow.
Her frequent trips to fantasy island, blurring reality and flights of imagination, make it a challenge for we, the audience, to easily differentiate between truth and fancy, which may prove frustrating for those who insist on conventional narrative structure. In fact, the entire movie very well could have been nothing but an illusion – a daydream existing only inside the head of our protagonist, Alma.
The minimalist, laconically told narrative moves along quite briskly, at about 76 minutes, and despite its title and subject matter, rather innocently, opting for a consistent levity, even at times of crisis, over any real anguish – the kind that one might expect in your typical coming-of-age drama.
The mostly youthful cast just seems to wander almost android-like, in this mostly open-spaced, sparsely-populated, leafy, cottage town, shot documentary style, through this muted lens filter, giving the film an almost strange, other-worldly air about it – a quality that I liked and had no difficulty immersing myself into fully.
It’s still all very familiar; even in this ethereality, there are still teenage boys, and girls, their expected hormonal shifts, the dance that accompanies all those combined ingredients, and the resulting high school cliques, outcasts, popularity contests, and more, as each desires acceptance from the dominant group.
Not Alma though; at least not entirely. Tall, lanky and awkward, her classmates ensure that she doesn’t win any beauty pageants; although, she’d probably end up being that girl who, 10 years later, relays her experiences on some popular talk show, a super model, reminiscing about her awkward teenage years, and how much of an outcast she was.
Alma isn’t at all shy, seems to have a healthy confidence, is outspoken and she happens to like Artur, another student, also coveted by one of her best friends. Not the best set-up for any teenage friendship to endure. Alma is consumed with salacious thoughts, both hetero and homosexual, as she fantasizes about sexual encounters with both sexes, wandering about this cottage town, hoping to find some fulfillment that never really comes (no pun intended, although the spellings are different); not the lustful kind anyway; At least not with the involvement of a partner.
The strengthening of her confidence, and self-awareness, after lessons learned from a series of unfortunate events, bringing her even closer to her concerned, conservative and initially disapproving mother, and the definitive resolution of a betrayal, all are even more crucial to the growth of this young damsel.
If I was asked to summarize the film in one word, I’d say something like, cute. It’s a laconically narrated, funny, warm, seemingly harmless slice of teen life in what feels like an isolated part of the universe, though its themes are still very much universal.
It’s without an American distributor, but a warm reception at Tribeca Film Festival could inspire a distribution exec to take a chance with it.