Elling (2001) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexual content
Running time: 89 min.
Cast: Per Christian Ellefsen, Sven Nordin, Marit Pia Jacobsen, Jorgen Langhelle
Director: Peter Naess
Screenplay: Axel Hellstenius (based on the novel, "Brodre i blodet", by Ingvar Ambjornsen)
Review published February 10, 2002
Elling is a nice little Norwegian comedy that isn't particularly profound or substantial, but is almost impossible to dislike. It's about a mama's boy named Elling, who finally confronts having to be a man of his own when his mother passes away after taking care of him for the first 40 years of his life. At first he can't cope at all, and his refusal to perform the simplest of daily functions lands Elling in a mental institution. It is there he becomes friends with his roommate, Kjelle Bjarne, a much larger man with an obsession for the female form, although himself a virgin. As an experiment, the duo are placed into a state-funded apartment to see if they can live on their own and function in outside society, and hopefully, overcome their phobias. Life was so much simpler when Elling had a mother to take care of him, so how can he make decisions for himself when he has never had to before?
Elling was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign language film of 2001, probably because it is one of those crowd-pleasing films that is almost universally liked, much like another film nominated in the same category, Amelie. It's a very entertaining and endearing film because we enjoy the characters immensely, played to perfection by Ellefsen and Nordin. Ingvar Ambjornsen's novel provided the basis for the story, adapted by Axel Hellstenius with great attention to character. The direction by Peter Naess keeps the mood light, while delivering the occasional poignant scene whenever appropriate.
The appeal is probably universal, and it's recommended to anyone who doesn't mind reading subtitles or listening to Norwegian dialect.
-- Followed by More Elling (2003) and Elsk meg i morgen (2005).
©2002 Vince Leo