The grass is roughly the same green no matter where it grows

Patrik Age 1,5

on August 07, 2010 by Tim Cogshell

The comma in the title of this adaptation of Swedish Playwright Michael Druker's Patrik Age 1, 5 is the hook on which the narrative hangs. It's the kind of contrived device used in American sitcoms to set up the single joke that drives the rest of the plot. Here it's no less contrived, but the story is dramatic rather than comic. Patrik (Tom Ljungman) is in fact 15 years old rather than 18 months; which matters less than the fact that he's a homophobic delinquent and that his adoptive parents, Göran (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Sven (Torkel Petersson), are two Gay men. To the straight-ears of this film critic, the storyline even sounds like a plot-twist in a sitcom. In fact, as we think about it now, the film was pretty funny and the humor ran alongside many pleasant and fulfilling arcs. Depending on their orientation, audiences may take the narrative either way: target Gay audiences will likely find a pity-drama about an oddball family; others could see a pithy comedy about an oddball family. Either way, it won't generate much box office because neither Straight nor Gay Americans speak Swedish or read subtitles.

The film opens with Göran and Sven moving into a new house in an idyllic community of families with brightly colored homes. This is a neighborhood where kids play in the street. Everyone seems to be married with children, which is exactly what Göran, a young family physician with a deeply "maternal" instinct, wants. Sven, a formerly married father of a teenage daughter with a slightly bitter ex-wife, is happy to play along but is plainly less committed to the whole scene. Still, they've applied for the adoption and are awaiting a baby. When it looks as if everything will fall apart; Göran cries, Sven consoles. Then, in a twist worthy of the best episodes of Three's Company, a letter arrives declaring that Göran and Sven will be the proud parents of Patrik Age 1, 5.

The film is structured around its twists. We find ourselves on a teeter-totter of emotions and (sitcom) circumstances, never quite sure when the teeter will totter again. Patrik must go. Patrik must stay. Patrik wants to go. Patrik wants to stay. Whatever will happen? It's a genuine question that one thinks is answered, but then, maybe not. It's a delicate balance that director and screenwriter Ella Lemhagen handles deftly with the help of her cast, who never stray from the sincerity of the drama for the laughs of the sitcom. Even when the film is funny, the cast is always playing the drama, and effectively so.

Along the way Göran and Sven suffer the standard indignities of a Gay couple in an idyllic Swedish neighborhood. Which, as it turns out, are all the same indignities a Gay couple suffers living in an idyllic American neighborhood. This may be the most surprising revelation of the film for American audiences. Who knew that contemporary Swedes are as homophobic as their contemporaries in America? For that matter, who knew that Gay Swedes were as obsessed with babies as Gay Americans?

Which just goes to prove that everyone everywhere is living in a Gay Swedish sitcom even if they are not Swedish and not Gay, and even if it seems more like a Gay Swedish drama.

Distributor: Regent Releasing
Cast: Gustaf Skarsgård, Torkel Petersson, Tom Ljungman, Amanda Davin and Annika Hallin
Director/Screenwriter: Ella Lemhagen
Producers: Tomas Michaelsson
Genre: Dramedy; Swedish-language, subtitled
Rating: R for some language and brief sexual content.
Running time: 103 min
Release date: August 6 NY/LA


Tags: Gustaf SkarsgÄrd, Torkel Petersson, Tom Ljungman, Amanda Davin, Annika Hallin, Ella Lemhagen, Tomas Mihaelsson

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