Virgin Mountain – BFI LFF 2015 Review

There’s been a six year gap between Virgin Mountain and director writer Dagur Kári’s last film, The Good Heart, a film that was all well meaning but missed the mark. Back on his home turf however, the setting plays all to Kári’s strengths.

Forty-three year old bachelor Fusi, GunnarJónsson, still lives with his mother, working as an airport baggage handler with his free time invested in battle re-enactments with miniature models and playing with a remote controlled car. A child living in a big man’s body. A social outcast bullied at work and looked upon suspiciously by a new downstairs neighbour, Fusi keeps himself to himself but is now finding people imposing on him from all corners. In a bid to try and get him to socially spread, his mother’s new boyfriend buys him line-dancing classes. His social awkwardness thwarts his eagerness to go until an attendee, Sjofn asks him to rescue her from a storm. Accepting of who he is, Fusi slowly begins to chip away from the shell he’s built around him. The upturn in events take a dive when he is to discover that Sjofn is a much more troubled soul than he is.

A coming of age story whereby it doesn’t matter how old one is, Virgin Mountain is a well-balanced delicate piece of work that never veers off course. Kári and Johnson deliver pitch perfect dry deadpan Nordic humour that marries well with the gloomy Icelandic weather. The story builds with well-structured moments of tension and character growth.Kári woos and entertains the audience in the first half but tonally shifts the film in the final sectors to have hearts put on the line. As a rom-com it does well too not be over schmaltzy or trip over too many clichés and defies leaving the audience with a conventional ending, as Fusi’s emotional state is put on the line with the question being asked as someone who seemed content but has had their life shook up by societal intrusion whether it was worthwhile at all, but is all sewn up in one final gesture. For such a big man Jónsson is remarkably delicate and nuanced, magnetic from start to finish one would hope to see him in a pivotal role soon again. Whilst some may see Virgin Mountain as a bit too sweet, it would be a more than a welcome edition to most people’s library of films to be fond of that Kári can surely say to himself a job well done.

****

Chris Aitken

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