Count Me Out

This wholly delightful and naturalistic children's film is set in the real world where broken homes and fleeting relationships cause all kinds of emotional problems for the small fry.

This wholly delightful and naturalistic children’s film is set in the real world where broken homes and fleeting relationships cause all kinds of emotional problems for the small fry. Funny, emotional and poignant, this well-made effort should be grabbed by programmers of children’s fare everywhere, and remake rights should also be considered.

Hrefna’s celebrating her 10th birthday, but misses the father she’s never known. Her mother has told her he’s living in Paris, and he’s sent her a present (a model of the Eiffel Tower). But Hrefna discovers that, in fact, her father is back in Reykjavik and living with his new wife in another part of the city. Devastated at the thought that he hasn’t bothered to contact her, the resourceful child, accompanied by her best friend, Yrsa, sets out to track him down.

The efforts of these two little girls to find Hrefna’s dad are consistently amusing and inventive. It isn’t long before Hrefna comes face to face with her father, who operates a sports clothing store in a mall, but she’s too tongue-tied to talk, and, devastatingly, he doesn’t recognize her. The kids track him down to his home in the burbs, where he lives with his glam wife and 18-month-old daughter; they figure that if they can start the couple quarreling (something they’ve witnessed many times before between their mothers and their boyfriends), he might leave and return to Hrefna.

Through a series of perfectly logical incidents, the girls wind up kidnapping the baby, which triggers a police manhunt and a great deal of well-staged comic incident.

Writer-director Ari Kristinsson explores the mixed-up world of these children with tenderness, humor and insight. It’s confusing when, as Yrsa complains, “I’ve had four dads, which can be a bit tiring.” The youngsters are shrewd enough to play on the guilt of the adults, so that Yrsa can easily con her mother’s new lover into giving them money to pay for a taxi ride, and can persuade her father, a scrungy musician, to drive her where she wants to go.

The film works so well because Kristinsson beautifully achieves the difficult task of extracting both humor and pathos from the adventures of these children, who crave love and attention in a world where their parents are selfishly looking after their own interests, all too often ignoring the effect their behavior has on their kids.

As the spirited, adventuresome girls, Bergthora Aradottir and Freydis Kristofersdottir are both delightful, and the baby is cute as a button. The self-absorbed adults aren’t demonized, but are unblinkingly depicted as basically self-centered and thoughtless.

Fine location photography in and around Reykjavik gives the film an expansive feel, and the music score is bright and breezy.

Count Me Out

  • Production: An Icelandic Film Corp. (Reykjavik)/Filmhuset (Oslo)/Peter Rommel Filmproduktion (Berlin)/Zentropa Entertainments (Copenhagen) co-production, in association with the Icelandic Film Fund. (International sales: Nordisk Film Intl., Copenhagen.) Produced by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Ari Kristinsson. Directed, written by Ari Kristinsson, based on an idea by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Halldor Gunnarsson; editor, Steingrimur Karlsson; music, Valgeir Gudjonsson; production designer, Gudny Arndis Oskarsdottir; sound, Kjartan Kjartansson; assistant director, Maria Sigurdarsdottir. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 16, 1998. Running time: 78 MIN.
  • With: Hrefna - Bergthora Aradottir Yrsa - Freydis Kristofersdottir
  • Music By: