"The Orheim Company" is a strongly etched if overly familiar coming-of-ager.
A strongly etched if overly familiar coming-of-ager, “The Orheim Company” reps the third film to feature novelist Tore Renberg’s iconic voice-of-a-generation character, Jarle Klepp, who previously appeared in “The Man Who Loved Yngve” (2008) and “I Travel Alone” (2011). Given that it’s based on a beloved bestseller, this latest from Norwegian helmer Arhild Andresen (“The Liverpool Goalie”) should score on home turf and find further fest play offshore; its top prize in Gothenburg’s Nordic film competition won’t hurt. Norsk Filmdistribusjon launches domestic rollout on March 2.
Klepp, a semiautobiographical character for Renberg, embodies the energy of youth while also offering audiences a rueful look at the recent past from a more mature perspective. In all three films, events in Klepp’s young adult life spark memories of his troubled teenage years.
Although it works as a standalone film, “Orheim” is essentially a prequel to the two previous pics, explaining why Jarle’s parents separated and how he met best friend Helge and became a liberal activist. Bookended by a 1996 section in which the 24-year-old Jarle (Rolf Kristian Larsen, reprising) reacts to news of his father’s death, the primary narrative takes place eight years earlier in the coastal town of Stavanger, slightly predating the action of “The Man Who Loved Yngve.”
Sixteen-year-old Jarle (Vebjorn Enger) is bitterly aware that his father, Terje Orheim (Kristoffer Joner, terrifyingly good), has a drinking problem, and resents the fact that his meek mother, Sara (Cecilie Mosli), refuses to stand up for herself or for him. Terje is a mean drunk, given to abusing Sara and Jarle physically and psychologically. Perhaps the film’s strongest element is the way it nails the wary, embattled atmosphere in which an alcoholic’s family members exist, as well as the painful incidents that cause Jarle to mistrust and fear his controlling father.
Jarle tries to escape troubles at home through his love of alternative rock, liberal activism and the pursuit of girls. Along with Helge (Glenn Andre Viste Boe), he participates in a rally against racism and becomes something of a local star when he is shown on TV shouting down anti-immigration forces.
The screenplay by Andresen and his “Goalie” scribe Lars Gudmestad is sensitive to the Orheim family dynamics while also capturing the mood and spirit of two different generations in a specific environment and era. Pacing is brisk and thesping on the money.
Cool-toned tech package is fine, with the backdrop of frequently gray, rainy skies an apt metaphor for the Orheim family’s instability. The film’s title comes from joking name that Terje, a WWII buff, gives their family unit.