Film Review: ‘Yarn’

This diverting but slender doc surveys four artists working in the titular medium.

Pole Olek, Tilde Bjorfors, Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldsdottir, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam. Narrator: Barbara Kingsolver. (English, Icelandic, Swedish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5333518/

“Yarn” provides a diverting survey of artists working in the titular medium, turning a handicraft traditionally considered to be mere women’s work into fodder for the gallery, for political statements and more. Yet this slender documentary’s surprising disinterest in exploring related larger topics — such as the historical roles of knitting, or its recent resurgence as something of a hipster fad — ultimately makes for a very superficial treatment of its subject. Nevertheless, that limited scope should serve the short, colorful feature well enough as a lightweight educational broadcast item.

Helmer Una Lorenzen (Heather Millard and Thordur Jonsson are created as co-directors) provides some beautiful bucolic views of grazing sheep in her native Iceland. But mostly “Yarn” strays far from the woolly source to the most rarefied possible uses of that material. The female artists we spend time with are all interested in applying it whimsically to public media.

Lorenzen’s countrywoman Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldsdottir creates “yarn graffiti” in unexpected places, eventually including sites in Spain and Cuba. Flamboyant Polish expat Olek uses crochet to cover everything from vintage train compartments to mimes in vivid patterns. Japanese-born Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam graduated decades ago from exhibiting soft sculptures in museums to creating giant nylon versions that children can play on. Tilde Bjorfors, artistic director of Copenhagen’s Cirkus Cirkor, is seen working with acrobats and designers on “Knitting Peace,” a stage show that uses the motion and shapes of weaving as a metaphor for life.

All this is loosely pulled together (ahem) by Barbara Kingsolver’s soundtrack recitation of her prose piece “Where to Begin” from the collection “Knitting Yarns.” “Yarn” itself is appealingly packaged, with Lorenzen’s cutout-style animations, a pleasant score and many colorful sights making for an easy sit as the doc globe-trots from from Italy to Canada to an ocean expedition. But it’s less than the sum of its attractive parts, with scant overall insight or weight. Like an old handmade sweater, this is a movie that might unravel too easily if you gave any single element a hard tug.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Yarn'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 8, 2016. (In SXSW Film Festival — SX Global; Goteborg Film Festival.) Running time: 76 MIN. (Original title: "Garn")

Production: (Documentary — Iceland) A Compass Films production. Produced by Heather Millard, Thordur Jonsson. Executive producer, Krishan Arora. Co-producer, Marcin Marczyk.

Crew: Directed by Una Lorenzen. Co-directors, Thordur Jonsson, Heather Millard. Written by Krishan Aorora. Camera (color, HD), Iga Mikler; editor, Thorunn Hafstad; music, Orn Eldjarn; sound, Josh Denaro; re-recording mixer, Hallur Ingolfsson; animation, Una Lorenzen.

With: Pole Olek, Tilde Bjorfors, Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldsdottir, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam. Narrator: Barbara Kingsolver. (English, Icelandic, Swedish dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Bombay Rose,' Venice Premiere, Debuts Trailer

    'Bombay Rose,' Venice Film Festival Premiere, Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for animated film “Bombay Rose,” which will have its world premiere opening Venice Critics’ Week on Aug. 28. The film, written and directed by Gitanjali Rao, will also play in the Contemporary World Cinema strand at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 7. “Bombay Rose” is [...]

  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu speaks during a

    Alejandro G. Inarritu on the Need to Preserve Poetry in Cinema

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu is urging the film industry to guard against the influence of television storytelling in cinema, a looming crisis he said could strip film of the beauty and poetry that make it a unique artistic form of expression. Attending the Sarajevo Film Festival to receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo award, the Oscar-winning [...]

  • Levan Akin on the Impact of

    Levan Akin on the Impact of ‘And Then We Danced’

    Georgian-Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin is already enjoying success with “And Then We Danced,” his acclaimed social drama about a young dancer struggling with the confines of tradition and forbidden love. The film, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, went on to win three top awards at the Odessa Film Festival, including best film and [...]

  • Brian Oliver'Black Mass' Premiere, Toronto International

    'Rocketman' Producer Developing Comedy 'Inward Bound' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Oliver’s New Republic Pictures, the company that co-financed and produced “Rocketman,” is developing a female ensemble comedy “Inward Bound.” The announcement comes on the heels of Universal’s “Good Boys” becoming the first R-rated comedy to open in first place at the North American box office  in three years, as well as the biggest opening [...]

  • Heroic Losers

    Watch Clip from Ricardo Darin’s Toronto-Bound ‘Heroic Losers’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to an exclusive clip and poster from Toronto Special Presentation “La Odisea de los Giles” (“Heroic Losers”) which, starring Ricardo Darín, has just scored in is native Argentina a standout opening weekend of Peso 58.8 million ($1.1 million) and 316,300 admissions for Warner Bros. Pictures. With “Heroic Losers” having released [...]

  • "The Hunt"

    'The Hunt' Director Breaks Silence on Film's Cancellation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Craig Zobel, director of “The Hunt,” hopes that the controversial political thriller will eventually be seen by audiences, and argues that its message has been misrepresented in media reports. Zobel spoke for the first time since Universal canceled the film’s release on Aug. 10, in the wake of a series of mass shootings and amid [...]

  • Mark Damon, CEO & Chairman, Foresight

    Mark Damon's DCR Finance Receives $150 Million for Financing Georgia Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mark Damon’s DCR Finance Corp., co-headed with financer Adi Cohen, has received a $150 million investment from Go Media Productions for Georgia projects, Variety has learned exclusively. Damon, whose credits include “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” made the announcement Monday with Cohen. The deal calls for Atlanta-based Go Media Productions to join a private placement as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content