A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN – The Review
Stellan Skarsgård stars as Ulrik, a man who is recently released from prison after serving a 12 year (!) sentence for murder. While he seems like he just wants to live the rest of his life in peace, his past connections have abandoned him. Ulrik’s wife has left him and his son, who is now an adult who is married, has pretty much wiped all existence because of the 12 year absense in prison. The only person that seems to still care about him is his small-time mob boss, Rune, who is trying to give some drive to Ulrik and find the person that ratted him out to the cops which resulted in Ulrik’s imprisonment.
That first paragraph might make you think this is a action packed film, but let me assure you it is not. It is a very quiet and subdued film that plays off as a dark comedy of a man who is trying to establish an honest, normal life. He gets a job at a garage and gets a roof over his head, yet because of Skarsgård’s superb acting, we all know that something is bound to interrupt this plan. The audience is treated to some hilariously uncomfortable scenes between his landlord who brings down dinner for him and continues to sit on a crickety bed and watches tv with Ulrik.
Ulrik is trying to turn over a new leaf and wants to try and rekindle a relationship with his son. While his son doesn’t initially take an interest, it becomes to blossom in a way a dirty secret would as Ulrik’s son, Geir, doesn’t want to tell his wife about his father’s history and has previously told his wife that Ulrik was dead. Instead of owning up to the false story, Geir tells his wife that Ulrik is his uncle. While Ulrik is a little hurt by this, he understands why and appreciates that there is at least some attempt in trying to get to know each other.
All the performers are spot on and with some subtle yet effective direction by Hans Petter Moland (ABERDEEN from 2000), we know that no matter how funny some of the situations Ulrik is getting himself into that the final result may result in violence. The whole film can be looked at as simply a tale or yarn, but I saw it as asking the question of if someone who spends time behind bars for over 10 years, are they really better off released into a world that has moved forward without said person?
A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN is a touching look at one man who tries his hardest to return to normalcy. Yet, due to preconceived notions from his society, is pigeonholed into someone who can be used and or should be feared. It is a must see for foreign film lovers for Skarsgård’s performance alone.
This review was originally published on November 25, 2010 during the 19th Annual St. Louis International Film Festival.