Cold Lunch (Lønsj)
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As I’ve mentioned before, you often find strange way of choosing the movies you see when you’re attending a film festival. Through the years, though, I’ve found what I thought was a sure-fire rule: if it was made in Norway, I was guaranteed to love it. Though I tend to lean toward Norwegian comedies (like The Art of Negative Thinking), even the dramas (like Sons) have a quirky sense of humor that keeps me coming back for film after Norwegian film. But at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, I finally found the exception to my previously fail-safe rule.

Cold Lunch (or, in Norwegian, Lønsj) follows an ensemble of average people. Heidi (Pia Tjelta) is a new mom—and a battered wife. Though she sometimes tries to stand up for herself and her son, she continues to accept blame whenever her husband, Odd (Kyrre Haugen Sydness), isn’t happy. And she can’t convince herself to leave him—because she doesn’t want to be alone.

Christer (Aksel Hennie) is an aimless and irresponsible young man who can’t pay his rent—or keep a job. When his roommate finally throws him out, he’s left to fend for himself.

And Leni (Ane Dahl Torp) is a young woman who finds herself on her own after her overbearing father suddenly dies. After she’s thrown out of the apartment they shared, she’s forced to figure out how to survive in the outside world.

Though Cold Lunch has many of the eccentricities of the Norwegian movies that I’ve grown to love, it feels random and disconnected—like a random series of studies of characters that I just didn’t connect to or even care about. Only Leni appears to grow at all throughout the movie—and the rest seem to be a handful of random people who just do some stuff and move on. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and then it seems to just end without much resolution.

It wasn’t until director Eva Sørhaug got up for the post-screening Q&A that I began to make sense of the story—and its message about the decisions we make and how they can be self-destructive. And if you need the director to be there to explain it all to you after the credits roll, you’ve got yourself a pretty big problem.

So alhough it’s an artistic and often beautiful film, Cold Lunch doesn’t succeed in telling a compelling story—or in creating likeable (or even interesting) characters. And, for that reason, it’s the first Norwegian film that I wouldn’t recommend seeing.

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