Familiar Icelandic strains of melancholy and deadpan humor run through "Reykjavik Guesthouse -- Rent a Bike," shared first feature for Bjorn Thors and Unnur Osp Stefansdottir. Vid-shot seriocomedy has a stealthy charm and warmth that stalls in last-lap shift toward undernourished melodrama.

Familiar Icelandic strains of melancholy and deadpan humor run through “Reykjavik Guesthouse — Rent a Bike,” shared first feature for Bjorn Thors and Unnur Osp Stefansdottir. Vid-shot seriocomedy has a stealthy charm and warmth that stalls in last-lap shift toward undernourished melodrama. Still, modest item bodes well for helmers, and reps an attractive pickup for adventuresome broadcasters.

Having lived his entire life under the heel of an exacting, recently deceased pa, 30-ish Johann (an endearing Hilmir Snaer Guonason) can’t seem to function alone — he lets the Reykjavik Guesthouse they’d run together go vacant, running up debts and refusing to move even as an aggressive competitor demands Johann sell the property. Socially awkward and friendless, he nonetheless attracts some fellow strays, notably a picked-on young boy (Stefan Eiriksson) living across the street with his grandmother. Finding this new “family” encourages Johann to re-open for business. But a few minor setbacks unconvincingly drive him to the brink of suicide, a climactic crisis that script is a tad too slight to support. Still, appealing performances and effective low-key handling keep pic likeable.

Reykjavik Guesthouse -- Rent a Bike

Iceland

Production

A Vid Med, Cut 'n' Paste, Rettur Dagsins and Today's Special production. Produced by Bjorn Thors. Co-producer, Unnur Osp Stefansdottir. Directed by Bjorn Thors, Unnur Osp Stefansdottir. Screenplay, Thors, Borkur Sigborsson, Stefansdottir.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Sigborsson; editor, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir; music, Daniel Bjarnason; production designer, Birta Prastardottir. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (World Cinema: Reflections of Our Time), Aug. 24, 2002. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Hilmir Snaer Guonason, Kristjorg Kjeld, Stefan Eiriksson, Margret Vilhjalmsdottir, Bjorn Hylnur Hinriksson, Kjartan Guojondottir, Petur Einarson, Maria Sigurdardottir.

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