You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Welcome to Norway!’

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

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


    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film Review: ‘Storm Boy’ Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. More Reviews Iranian [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? More Reviews Iranian [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content