Heart with chilly edge
The coming-of-age story has forever been a staple of film making, and its prevalence doesn't seem to be diminishing. This obsession with telling stories about the formative years of the lives of people often seems like a kind of therapy for the writer or director and this sense of providing some therapeutic relief may also contribute to their success.
Released this Friday, the brilliant Icelandic coming-of-age film Heartstone continues in this tradition – bringing with it a distinctly chilly edge.
Focusing on the lives of two teenage boys, in a very small coastal village in Iceland, who spend their days fishing off the pier, playing football, having awkward conversations with girls and dealing with their dysfunctional family situations.
Thor is smaller than the other boys and is desperate to grow up. He checks his chest for hair on a regular basis and no longer wants to shower with his friends. His best friend Christian looks more outwardly mature but lacks confidence.
Together the two are on the verge of adulthood and their close friendship is left vulnerable once their flirtatious encounters with girls begin to finally pay dividend. Tempted into precarious situations and mistreated by his father, Christian is also struggling with growing feelings towards his friend.
Of course, the coming-of-age film rarely runs smoothly, but the eventual pay-off includes character growth, a renewed purpose, and entry into the adult sphere. Although Heartstone is a little formulaic in this regard, the film is a gripping watch and its location in such an extreme rural area presents an experience of childhood that seems far removed from that of the majority of UK audiences.
Bringing similar elements to genre classics such as Stand By Me and The 400 Blows but with a distinctly Northern European edge: this film portrays young male experience to the screen with great maturity, complete with wonderful knitwear and an appearance from familiar Danish actor Søren Malling (Wallander, Borgen, A Hijacking).
The lead performance from Baldur Einarsson as Thor is a really emotional and gripping portrayal of a boy full of energy, anger, frustration and desire.
This debut feature film from writer/director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson enhances the themes of childhood (and boyhood in particular) that he has dealt with in his earlier short films.
It will certainly be interesting to follow where his work goes next and hopefully we’ll see more feature films from him soon.