Friday, April 2, 2010
Director: Matias Armand Jordal
Cast: Fridtjov Saheim, Odin Waage, Evy Kasseth Rosten
Like most tragic family dramas Together begins with a portrait of practical idyll as Kristine (Rosten) and Roger (Saheim) take their son Pal (Waage) out bowling to celebrate his birthday.
Between the giggles, friendly teases and hugs the family share, we begin to detect the underlying tensions between them as Roger later demands his slow-learning son to order from the restaurant's menu without any help.
Kristine quickly dispels this episode with a friendly joke and it becomes obvious how without her, father and son would be in trouble.
Two scenes later she's dead.
After this the plot centers on the tough relationship between the boys, especially given how Pal struggles to move on while his father descends into alcoholism and self destruction.
Pretty soon they turn into each other as the kid manages the house and even picks up his drunk dad from a bar after he gets in a fight.
The performances from the two lead actors are compelling and quite moving despite the film's shortcomings.
Saheim (who might remind you of Russell Crowe) is charming enough to make his pain and unquestionable neglect almost understandable.
Sometimes he convinces us that because of his role as a grieving husband, his behavior towards his son is normal. That achievement is impressive-if a bit problematic in sensitive terms-regarding the legal implications of raising a child.
Waage stands on his own giving a wonderful performance that manages to be sad, introverted and sometimes intensely ecstatic without ever forgetting he's a child.
The problem is that the director doesn't let the actors do the work and turns almost every scene into a soap opera waiting to happen.
He amps every element available to tug at your heart and stir your emotions robbing the film of an opportunity to work with more restrained Nordic notions.
Jordal never lets the audience discover things on their own and not only wears his heart on his sleeve but constantly waves at us so we can see it.
In one of the most effective sequences Pal runs away from home and recreates one of the most beautiful moments in Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (from which Together borrows several themes).
If you weren't sure what you'd seen was homage, Jordal confirms it by placing Pal against a French poster for the movie, which only works to neutralize the potential, simple poetry the scene, and the film, could've contained.