101 Reykjavik

Year: 2000
Production Co: Blueeyes Productions
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: Baltasar Kormákur/Hallgrímur Helgason
Cast: Hilmir Snær Guðnason

This is another one of those movies I've wanted to see for so long that by the time I got around to watching it I couldn't think what had made me want to do so in the first place. Maybe it was just the promise of a glimpse of contemporary life in the titular city, which I've always been curious about.

It's also the kind of movie that treats a delicate subject with an off the cuff sensibility that makes it seem just another quandry in life, whereas such subject matter would be so politicised and morally outrageous in a film market like America it'd be the centre of a hundred think pieces and Oscar conversations.

Hlynur is a twentysomething loser who lives in a flat with his Mum, lounging around on unemployment, watching porn, going to the pub with his mates and trying to avoid the girl around town who obviously has a thing for him.

But when his mother's hot young tamale dance teacher comes to stay after needing a place to stay when Hlynur's mum goes to visit family for a few days, it throws his life into disarray. He's unable to control the impulses the free spirited young woman fires in him, and the two end up in bed.

In rapid succession Hlynur's mum comes home, announces that she's gay and that her and the dance teacher are in love, are going to be together and are going to have a baby, the latter already pregnant – with Hlynur's child, he presumes.

But amid such an uncomfortable situation where he's going to be a father and a brother to a new baby in the family and that the girl he can't get out of his mind and has already slept with is going to be his stepmother, Hlynur keeps doing what he does best – trying to keep his head down, collecting his dole cheques and drinking down at the pub.

But he's nevertheless mildly disgusted at his one-time beau's behaviour and realises he doesn't want to give her up, starting a Monty Python-esque family squabble behind his mother's back.

There's an East End London kind of feel to the working class of Reykjavik with its streets sludgy with snow, tiny flats with barely detached bathrooms and the conduct and attitudes of the local social life.

It also feels like a long film, the events that constitute the story meandering through it just like Hlynur is through his life. It seems to take a long time to set up the central conflict and doesn't seem too concerned with resolving it, but that may be the low-fi approach to what in many other films would be a loud subject with plenty of emotional histrionics.

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