What is it about Scandinavian cinema? Even in comedy, they manage to show us only the “gritty underbelly” of their countries. In the case of A Somewhat Gentle Man from Norway, the setup comes in the first few moments. Ulrick, played by the marvelous and ubiquitous Stellan Skarsgård, walks out of prison after serving 12 years for murder, only to find a world that’s at least as bleak as the one he’s leaving behind. This is the story of Ulrick’s reintroduction to society: getting a job, making contact with his family, considering revenge for those responsible for his incarceration and making up for twelve years without female contact.
That’s the stage for this utterly hilarious but absolutely deadpan movie. Maybe it was the exhaustion after 18 films over the past 11 days, but we laughed louder and harder than at any other time during the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival. The entire cast of deeply real characters is terrific.
In searching for a trailer to include below, I decided to embed the one without subtitles. Somehow I think it captures the spirit of this great film even better. Distributed by Strand Releasing, if this movie plays near you, go see it. You’ll have a lot of fun.