The King of Ping Pong (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/06/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Likeable, offbeat Swedish coming-of-age story, with a strong central performance by Jerry Johansson.

What's it all about?
Not to be confused with The King of Kong, The King of Ping Pong stars Jerry Johansson as overweight Swedish teen Rille, who lives for Ping-Pong because it's the only thing he's really good at and the only place where his stewardship of the Ping-Pong cupboard allows him to lord it over the younger kids, instead of regularly getting beaten up or bullied once he leaves the sports hall. Rille lives with his mother (Ann-Sofie Nurmi) and his good-looking younger brother Erik (the delightfully named Hampus Johansson), while both boys anxiously await the infrequent visits from their estranged father.

Meanwhile, Rille is constantly jealous of Erik's popularity at school, but when he overhears some distressing news about his paternity, Rille suddenly realises why he and his brother are so different and agonises over whether or not to tell him.

The Good
Johansson is superb as Rille (think Row-land from 1980s-era Grange Hill) and there's strong support from Hampus Johnansson and from tiny Alicia Stewen as Anja, a bespectacled young girl who secretly likes Rille - the scene where she shows him a portrait she's drawn of him is shocking, weird and laugh-out-loud funny, all at the same time.

The film is also unexpectedly dark in places, particularly in its depiction of authority figures, who are all rather useless. It's hard not to sympathise with Rille's crushing disappointment as he begins to realise the failings of his father.

The Great
Aside from getting great performances from his cast, director Jens Jonsson orchestrates some striking scenes and creates some memorable images, including: Rille sitting on his ice throne; his drunken father unexpectedly jumping into an ice hole; and one lovely sequence when Rille is driving a truck with Anja in the passenger seat and they both break into delightful smiles.

Worth seeing?
The King of Ping Pong is an enjoyable, offbeat Swedish drama with strong performances, though those looking for pulse-quickening Ping-Pong action are destined for disappointment.

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Content updated: 21/10/2017 18:23

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