3 out of 5 stars
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all they have to do is get out of the house This is one of those foreign films that comes out of nowhere to grab an Oscar nomination. And after watching it you know why: It's a thoroughly disarming story that really grabs you. Elling (Ellefsen) has been in a mental hospital since his mother died, simply because he doesn't know how to cope in he world without her. After two years of treatment, he and his fellow patient Kjell Bjarne (Nordin) are given a flat in Oslo and the chance to be normal again. But to Elling just walking across a restaurant feels like as much work as a North Pole expedition! Fortunately, help is at hand from a social worker (Langhelle), a new friend (Christensen) and a pregnant neighbour (Jacobsen). How can two virginal, agoraphobic 40-year-old men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

Yes it's the Norwegian Odd Couple. But it's also small and simple, bright and funny, and it never even begins to preach a message about mental health. Instead, it just gives us a thoroughly engaging story with characters we really grow to like--warm, endearing and sweet but never sentimental. The script and direction are so well-done that we hardly notice them--it just feels natural and real. And the performances are energetic and often hilarious, making the relationships between the characters utterly believable. It's also the very rare film about mental illness that lets us identify completely with the characters. This is never a show of serious acting; the characters are the thing, not the actors. And the characters are both believable and sympathetic. We see ourselves in them vividly, which makes the film truly meaningful as well as thoroughly entertaining.

cert 12 themes, language 9.Dec.02

dir Petter Naess
scr Axel Hellstenius
with Per Christian Ellefsen, Sven Nordin, Per Christensen, Jorgen Langhelle, Marit Pia Jacobsen, Hilde Olausson, Ola Otnes, Eli-Anne Linnestad, Cecilie Mosli, Joachim Rafaelsen, Per Gorvel, Knud Dahl
release US Jul.02; UK 14.Mar.03
01/Norway 1h30

It works! Kjell Bjarne celebrates when he gets the old Buick running again (Ellefsen and Nordin)

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall