Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie: A Somewhat Gentle Man (U.S. 2011)

This somewhat gentle movie slipped into a handful of theaters at the start of the year and is now on DVD and Netflix Instant. Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) walks out of prison after serving 12 years for murder – and finds out everyone has his release date wrong. He’s got that kind of luck. His old boss sets him up with a hovel and a lousy job, expecting him to seek vengeance on the man who sent him away. But once Ulrik discovers he’s due to be a grandfather, he considers the completely alien prospect of simply living his life.

Everything about the movie is beautifully deadpan; even the composition of director Hans Petter Moland’s shots is funny. The Norwegian Tourist Board cannot be happy with the chosen locations. The characters are uniformly shabby and disreputable, grabbing for what they can at the margins, yet they’re treated with real affection. You generally know where the story is going but it still manages to sneak up on you. Much of the credit goes to Skarsgård. From the second you glimpse his ponytail, it’s clear he owns this character. He gives an epically Zen performance; the simple joy Ulrik is able to take in small things becomes a sizeable joy indeed. And if there’s not a soundtrack album, there ought to be. A lovely surprise of a film.