Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fantastic Fest 2011 movie review- SUMMERLAND- She said

Directed by: Grimur Hakonarson
Written by: Olafur Egilsson and Grimur Hakonarson
Starring: Olafia Hronn Jonsdottir, Kjartan Gudjonsson, and Snorri Engilbertsson 
Synopsis: Oskar is wanting to sell the family's sacred elf stone to keep the house, but the stone is sacred to his wife, who also works as a medium.

Usually when there's a movie about elves and ghosts, two conclusions are normally reached: fantasy or cheesy horror flick.  However, SUMMERLAND is a smart, witty and charming story about a family in money trouble, and the wife happens to believe elves live in their giant rock in their backyard, oh and she talks to ghosts for a living.  

Though her job sounds absolutely absurd; however, the script is smart enough to paint this family, as well, normal.  Oskar runs a ghost house tour inside his own house, except business is slow.  So, he sort of steals clients from other local tours.  His wife, Lara, is in the ghost business too, except she's a medium; a typically scoff-able profession, yet the writers constructed a believable and endearing character.  

The strength of the film rests on whether you buy into the idea that this family believes in the supernatural.  The family may sound a bit out there, but their dynamics and charm overtake any hesitation you may have about the premise.  Oskar and Lara have a very sweet and loving relationship with your typical annoyances; when they're in bed, she tends to call him by her former husband's name...from a past life.  There's also a son and daughter.  Daughter is beginning to question the her mom's gift/belief and has the added struggle of an atheist boyfriend who doesn't believe in that nonsense.  The son is a bit of a loner, but then he finds another boy his age; however, the boy tends to disappear every once in a while.  There are some very "out there" (because the word twists doesn't really fit here) moments towards the end of the film.  For me, the moments added to the film's charm and quirkiness. 

Initially, I found the situation really, really weird.  Why would this woman get so torn apart over a rock?  Does she really believe in elves?  Is she really a medium?  Then it hit me; it doesn't really matter whether or not I believed in elves or ghosts.  This family, like everyones family, had their own idiosyncrasies.  Even though I may not fully understand why Lara and Oskar believe what they believe, the same could be said about my family.  In the end, as long as their family believes in each other, the movie works.  

This was a wonderful pallet cleanser for Fantastic Fest.  In the midst of gore, genre, and outrageousness that comes with most of those movies, SUMMERLAND takes a step back and tells a really sweet story.  Sure, there's some weirdness, but as a whole package, the movie works really well.  

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