101 Reykjavik (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/06/2001

Four stars out of five
Running time: 89 mins

Delightful offbeat comedy, a sort of Almodovar Goes Iceland - great performances, lovely photography, some laugh-out-loud gags and a superb soundtrack.

The title of 101 Reykjavik refers to the postal district where the central characters live. Supposedly it’s the party capital of the northern hemisphere, although on this evidence there seems little to do except drink, go to parties and have one-night stands. Or maybe that’s the point.

At any rate, Hilmir Snaer Gudnasun plays Hylnur, a 28 year-old slacker who still lives with his mother (Karlsdottir), surviving on unemployment benefit and dividing his time between drinking, ‘one-night stands’ with his on-off girlfriend and surfing for porn on the internet. However, when his mother’s lesbian flamenco teacher Lola (Victoria Abril) comes to stay, Hylnur finds himself falling for her, only to belatedly realise that she’s his mother’s girlfriend…

It may seem odd to describe a film in which the temperature never rises above minus fifteen degrees as ‘warm’, but that’s the adjective that best fits here. 101 Reykjavik succeeds through a spot-on combination of its offbeat characters, some excellent performances, some great lines, a cool soundtrack (courtesy of Iceland aficionado Damon Albarn) and some impressive photography – the shots of Hylnur walking along a glacier in particular.

The acting is excellent. Gudnasun somehow manages to make Hylnur a sympathetic character, despite the unemotional way he seems to treat everyone. Similarly, it’s a treat to see Abril (an Almodovar favourite, though her last film released here was French Twist) on the big screen again – she’s as sexy as ever and is clearly enjoying herself here.

In fact, director Kormakur wanted her for the role so badly that he shot all the scenes that didn’t feature her before even signing her up for the film, then approached her at a film festival and pleaded his case.

There are several lovely scenes here, including Hylnur’s reaction to his ‘girlfriend’s gift; Hylnur’s and Lola’s drunken night together; Hylnur lying buried in the snow of the glacier, cigarette protruding from his lips; and perhaps the best use of a shower curtain in a movie since Psycho

To sum up then, 101 Reykjavik is well-worth seeing. A big hit in its native Iceland, it successfully kept Gladiator off the number one spot, and it deserves similar glory here. Quirky, funny, sexy, it’s a film to be discovered – see it and tell your friends. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 11/12/2017 05:56

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