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Review - Patrik Age 1.5

It was nice to end my first Toronto International Film Fest with a movie with a happy ending. And unless you’re a conservative Catholic, Patrik Age 1.5 (or “Patrik 1,5?, if you’re outside North America) is certainly that.

Patrik Age 1.5 might be a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy if you omit some of the larger details. A recently married couple, one of them with a teenage daughter from a previous marriage, move to a suburban neighbourhood of white picket fences and frequent block parties, where they seek to fit in and start a family through adoption. The rom-com twist is that instead of the one and a half year old Patrik they’re expecting to get, their Patrik (played by Thomas Ljungman) is actually a 15 year old orphan with a police record that includes aggravated assault and knife-wielding. Formulaic hijinks ensue, everyone learns a lesson, group hug at the end, right?

Maybe, but the married couple in question are also both men, Gorän (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Sven Skoogh (Torkel Petersson).

Gorän and Sven live in a society that was good enough to allow them to be married, but one where their neighbours shun them, neighbourhood kids repeatedly vandalize their property and scream “homo!” at them, and one father threatens to kill Gorän, a doctor trying to immunize a group of schoolkids, if he ever touches his child again. Director Ella Lemhagen manages to raise issues of intolerance and homophobia without beating you over the head with them. It’s not any kind of polemic against an intolerant society or an “it’s so hard to be gay” statement, it’s how things are for Gorän and Sven, a reality they have to live with every day.

Young Patrik is, at least initially, no different than the neighbourhood kids, calling them both pedophiles and threatening that Sven will be sorry if he tries anything with him. Patrik drives a wedge between the happy couple. Gorän tries increasingly to reach out to him and break through his tough guy facade, while Sven grows increasingly distant and drinks heavily. Sven leaves when Gorän insists that Patrik stay until social services can find him a decent family rather than sending him back to an orphanage that Patrik says he would rather die than return to. Patrik softens as he starts working in Gorän’s garden, and his skills are such that he’s soon being hired by people all across the block. Patrik also gets the best line in the movie; he tells Gorän, over a shot of Patrik lying in bed with Sven’s goth-kid daughter, who’s talking a silent Patrik’s ear off, that “we just talk. She says I understand her.” Gorän revels in the newfound closeness with his teenage ward, but Sven’s absence leaves a hole in his life. Suffice to say, like many rom-coms before it, it all ends very happily despite the challenges faced, and all the characters learn a little something.

The beauty of Patrik Age 1.5 is that it manages this without the nauseating schmaltz too many rom-coms lapse into. It feels more genuinely sweet than most, thanks largely to the performances of it’s three main characters, particularly Gustaf Skarsgård as Gorän. It might be difficult for the conservative crowd or anybody who’s against gay marriage to watch, and if seeing a dude making out with another dude on screen makes you uncomfortable you might want to close your eyes at times. But it’s a heartwarming little movie with characters that feel real that manages to avoid undue sappiness or, just as importantly, trying to force a lesson about tolerance.

4.5/5 for Patrik Age 1.5. My girlfriend called it “the ultimate date movie.” As a Swedish movie with English subtitles, don’t expect to be able to take your girlfriend to see it at your local Cineplex anytime soon, but try to see it if you can.

da http://www.panicmanual.com/

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