Aptly billed as “an antidepressive off-road movie,” the wry comic drama “North” follows an anxious, dejected 30-year-old as he reluctantly journeys through spectacular arctic landscapes and reconnects with life. Magnificently visual, with deadpan acting reminiscent of the road movies of Jim Jarmusch and Bouli Lanners and a quirky economy of style, this fiction feature debut by Norwegian docu helmer Rune Denstad Langlo has the makings of a cult hit.
Downhearted ex-skiing ace Jomar (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) works at an isolated ski park near Trondheim and wishes he could return to the cozy psychiatric hospital nearby. These days, his idea of a good time is to hole up watching National Geographic’s “Tunnel Disaster Week” with plenty of booze and pills.
After belatedly learning he fathered a son with a former girlfriend now living in the far north, Jomar decides to pay a visit. Setting off on his snowmobile, provisioned only with alcohol and drugs, he meets some unconventional characters along the way, ultimately coming to the understand that life is all about not giving up.
Achieving maximum expressiveness through seemingly minimalist acting, helmer Denstad Langlo’s direction, like the work of compatriot Bent Hamer, relies on detailed, carefully composed visuals with thesps as an element in his offbeat humanist style.
Well-known actor Christiansen gives an expertly judged perf as Jomar, with rising talent Mads Sjogard Pettersen registering strongly as a youth with a case of cabin fever. The rest of the cast is composed largely of non-pros who do a remarkable job, particularly Marte Aunemo as a lonely, curious teen and Lars Olsen as an aged Sami sage.
Filmed during the toughest winter months in sparsely populated polar climes where depression and loneliness are real problems, d.p. Philip Ogaard’s fine widescreen lensing allows auds to experience the contrast between everyday gray twilight and blinding snow brightness, while sound designer Bent Holm captures the howling sound of blizzards and freshly cracking ice.
Dreamlike editing by Zaklina Stojcevska makes the script by Erland Loe (author of popular novel “Gone With the Woman”) feels a tad unbalanced, lingering too long in some locations and cutting others surprisingly short.
The sparingly used bluegrass/country-inflected score from Ola Kvernberg provides needed momentum.