×

Film Review: ‘Welcome to Norway!’

Norwegian helmer Rune Denstad Langlo brings levity to a serious subject in this refugee-crisis comedy.

With:
Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Henriette Steenstrup, Olivier Mukata, Slimane Dazi, Renate Reinsve, Nini Bakke Kristiansen, Elisar Sayegh. (Norwegian, English, Arabic, Swahili, French dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5248342/

Depending on your sense of humor, the ironically titled “Welcome to Norway!” will seem like either a pleasantly pointed wheeze or a comedy in cringingly poor taste. The third feature from Norwegian helmer Rune Denstad Langlo (“North”) brings levity to a serious, highly topical subject as it spins a tale about a lovable loser who tries to convert his family’s failing mountaintop hotel into a state-supported refugee reception center. World premiered at the Goteborg Film Festival (rather than the more politically correct Berlinale, where “North” previously nabbed a critic’s kudo), “Welcome to Norway!” snagged the audience award for a film in competition and has already inked presales with Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

Failed entrepreneur Primus (Anders Baasmo Christiansen, the able star of Langlo’s previous films) is on the verge of losing the rundown resort that has been in his family for generations. His wife (Henriette Steenstrup) is so exhausted and depressed by his go-nowhere schemes that she mostly stays in bed. Teen daughter Oda (Nini Bakke Kristiansen) remains loving but skeptical. The xenophobic, casually racist Primus sees an opportunity to change his fortunes by making one out of the refugees, whom he refers to as “darkies” when he’s not equating Somalis and Saamis in very un-PC jokes.

In typical fashion, Primus puts the cart in front of the horse, taking in 50 asylum seekers before the hotel renovations are finished and even before his facilities have been approved by the state. His cluelessness about the people he is sheltering could have created an even bigger disaster if it were not for a helpful African youth, Abedi (Olivier Mukata), who speaks five languages, explains the difference between Sunni and Shia, and answers other perplexing questions. Abedi becomes something of a man Friday to Primus, accompanying and advising him as he navigates the demands of various authorities and his new tenants. In a subplot that leaves a sour taste, he even babysits the child of Line (Renate Reinsve), a man-hungry city functionary, who withholds funding from the center until Primus, er, services her.

Another, more sprightly subplot follows the friendship of lonely Oda and Arab teen Mona (Elisar Sayegh), who share a bedroom in Primus’ house since he can’t really safely put Mona in a hotel without doors. When Mona is threatened with deportation, the resourceful Oda devises an audacious solution.

Even though only a few of the refugees get much screen time apart from Abedi, Mona and a sarcastic electrician named Zoran (Slimane Dazi, “A Prophet”), Denstad Langlo’s screenplay manages to make clear what some of them are fleeing from, as in a sobering classroom scene in which Line’s lesson plan elicits more than she bargained for. Nevertheless, the core of the script is the relationship between Primus and Abedi, which, natch, turns the Norwegian into a better human being.

Never overplaying, the warm, optimistic Mukata (a real-life asylum seeker who came to Norway with his family at the age of 18) is the heart and soul of the film. He’s a remarkable find, and given his language skills (like Abedi, he speaks five), he is certain to be in demand at home and abroad. Per press notes, former refugees, many of them from Syria, played some of the smaller roles and were cast as extras.

Made on a relatively modest budget of just under €2 million, the film was shot on location near the Norwegian-Swedish border, in an actual but no longer functioning Alpine lodge. Lensed by d.p. Philip Ogaard during a snowy, the film makes the isolated location an important part of the action. Ola Kvemberg’s lightly used score provides momentum where needed.

Film Review: 'Welcome to Norway!'

Reviewed at Goteborg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 4, 2016. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: (Norway) A Norsk Filmdistribsjon of a Motlys production, in co-production with B-Reel Feature Films. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Munich.) Produced by Sigve Endresen. Co-producers, Patrik Andersson, Espen Osmundsen, Eirik Smidesang.

Crew: Directed, written by Rune Denstad Langlo. Camera (color, HD), Philip Ogaard; editor, Vidar Flataukan; music, Ola Kvemberg; production designer, Eva Torsvall; costume designer, Ellen Ystehede, Jenny Hilmo Teig; sound, Gisle Tveito; casting, Yngvill Kolset Haga.

With: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Henriette Steenstrup, Olivier Mukata, Slimane Dazi, Renate Reinsve, Nini Bakke Kristiansen, Elisar Sayegh. (Norwegian, English, Arabic, Swahili, French dialogue)

More Film

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • BTS - J-Hope, V, Jungkook, Jimin,

    BTS' 'Bring the Soul: The Movie' Gets Global Theatrical Release

    BTS will be back on the big screen this summer. The Korean pop group announced today that their latest feature film, “Bring the Soul: The Movie,” will have a global release on August 7. It arrives just six and a half months after the septet’s last film release, “Love Yourself in Seoul.” “Bring the Soul” [...]

  • Box Office: 'Yesterday' Movie Takes on

    Box Office: 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Yesterday' Take on 'Toy Story 4'

    The weekend box office has gone to the dolls. “Annabelle Comes Home,” a supernatural horror film about a possessed toy, is facing off against another band of plastic figurines: “Toy Story 4.” Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is expected to dominate box office charts again over newcomers “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Yesterday,” a fantasy musical set [...]

  • 'The Current War' Trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch,

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicholas Hoult Feud in 'The Current War' Trailer (Watch)

    101 Studios has released an official new trailer for the Martin Scorcese-produced thriller, “The Current War,”  offering a glimpse into the dramatic 19th century battle over electricity that became known as the “war of the currents.” The film, which is a dramatization of real-life events, will follow the tumultuous journey of Thomas Edison, played by [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content