Welcome back to my coverage of a selection from the Scandinavian Film Festival AUS. This week it’s the Icelandic film Þrestir or Sparrows, the English translation which I will be using throughout the movie because it doesn’t contain that hard to type Þ character. Seriously, it’s not on my keyboard at all. I’ve got this at my disposal though – ^. So that’s handy. I use ^ all the time when I’m writing.
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, Sparrows is one of the more harrowing movies that you could possibly go to see. This isn’t a fun way to kill an afternoon. This isn’t a movie that requires popcorn, or a choc-top, or whatever the kids order these days. This movie is dark, unflinching, and unapologetic. And if you’re able to handle it, then it’s going to be a very emotional ride. Very. Emotional.
The film itself follows the story of Ari (Alti Oskar Fjalarsson), a teenaged boy whose mother is moving through Africa with her new husband. Unable to look after him during this move, his mother sends him from Reykjavik to the remote edges of Iceland to live with his drunk and destitute father, Gunnar (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson). Whilst the family relationships are rocky, Ari reconnects with both his grandmother and his childhood friend, Lara. But this is a brutal coming-of-age film, so Ari continually has to face challenges like being ostracized by his peers, bullying, sexual awakening and series of tragedies that I’m not going to spoil here but are definitely not something that should be taken lightly. After all, what sort of nincompoop spoils an obscure Icelandic film? You’d raise everyone’s ire!
“I was going to watch that in 5 years when it appeared on SBS2 you moron! Gah, this is worse than the time someone spoiled the ending of Schindler’s List”
The performances in this film are impeccable. No single character is one-note, with perhaps the exception of Ari’s friend and workmate Bassi, who acts as the best friend stereotype for much of the film. But even Bassi has a flaw, a lapse in judgement that has devastating consequences down the line. And all the performers give life to these characters superbly. It feels real. Perhaps gut-wrenchingly so, given the events that occurred.
I continually mention the events because they are the stand-out star of this film, and the reason it comes together at all. Imagine your life falling around your ears, with everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong, and any sort of relief being tainted before your very eyes. This is what you experience as you ride every bump along with Ari in this story. And this isn’t Hollywood. This story in Hollywood would see all the issues patched up in one inspiring sweep, allowing our young hero to transition into manhood. But here, Ari patches up his life as best he can, but it’s never going to be entirely fixed, and the film makes no apology for that.
This movie is going to effect the viewer in different ways – it might make some people sad, angry, disillusioned. But that seems to be what the film sets out to do. And in that regard, it is a success.
3.5/5 – It is not a film that it’s possible to fall in love with, but it’s definitely a film with impact.