An offbeat but very watchable black comedy about a hotel handyman who precipitates the breakup of a family, “Like It Never Was Before” could get solid box office returns both in Sweden and abroad, with careful handling.
Pic is the first based on a script by popular gay writer and standup comic Jonas Gardell, a well-known media personality in Sweden, whose wit targets both gays and gay-bashers. His books are always instant bestsellers.
Like much of Gardell’s other writings, “Like” deals with a family whose members are circumscribed by convention and want to break free. All that’s needed is a catalyst.
Here, it’s a young fellow named Petrus (Simon Norrthon), handyman at the seaside Pensionat Oskar.
When the argumentative Runeberg family arrives at the hotel, all are drawn to Petrus; but it’s the father, Rune (Loa Falkman), who falls in love with him and finally finds the strength to break free from the family.
To dub the film simply a “gay pic” would be to do it a disservice. The Petrus character bares similarities to that played by Terence Stamp in Pasolini’s “Teorema.”
Denmark’s Susanne Bier (“Freud Leaving Home”) directs with flair and a feel for Gardell’s black humor. She also makes efficient use of devices like fast and slow motion to enhance the story’s mood.
Performances are good down the line, with special praise for Falkman’s likable portrait of the pathetic father and Stina Ekblad’s perf as his wife, Gunnel. Latter shows a talent for comedy that she’s never had the opportunity to demonstrate before.
Pic features quite a lot of male frontal nudity.