Giving Michael Cera some competition as the screen’s personification of teenage-hero-as-hapless-naif, Sweden’s Bill Skarsgard makes the most of a real star turn in writer-director Hannes Holm’s ’70s period comedy “Behind Blue Skies.” A joyously clever take on the coming-of-age story, the film has enough hormones and humor to challenge U.S. resistance to foreign invasion. Likely too mainstream for specialty markets, “Skies” has “remake” written all over it.
Literally wide-eyed teenager Martin (Skarsgard, who has the biggest orbs since Anita Ekberg), passes up a night of sex so he can get home to help his mother. Heterosexual men will admire his fortitude if not his judgment; Martin seems almost too good to be true. Still, when he’s followed around by Goran Hallberg’s camera, we see the extent to which he vents his rage (on inanimate objects) over his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s passivity and his seeming lack of options.
This all changes when a friend’s family invites him along to a bucolic vacation island for the summer (the “friend” subsequently ditching him for greener pastures), and Martin begins work among a troupe of general flunkies at the restaurant and resort run by Gosta (Peter Dalle), a man who takes the concept of being a mentor to weird and unexpected places. Gosta runs a tight ship; anyone caught drinking, or even hung over, is summarily dismissed. He’s also a sarcastic little devil, so the young staff is kept in a virtual state of terror.
One of the wonderful things about “Behind Blue Skies” is the way Gosta, without ever articulating it, responds to Martin’s guilelessness — he considers the boy his heir apparent — as if recalling his own long-buried innocence. That this sort of magical union of souls occurs while Gosta is introducing Martin to his various business interests (hookers, strippers and much worse) is dryly hilarious.
Holm has a delicate hand with his solid cast — in addition to Skarsgard and Dalle, Josefin Ljungman is thoroughly winning as Martin’s co-worker Jenny, who evolves into his love interest. Indeed, Martin grows up beautifully along the way to a near-classic climax.
Tech credits are good, particularly Mattias Barjed’s music, which suggests the ’70s without invoking Abba.