A Somewhat Gentle Man (En Ganske Snill Mann)
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Readers who have followed my film festival adventures know that I have a fondness (some might even call it an obsession) for Norwegian films. Whenever I attend a film festival, I start by finding as many Norwegian films as possible—and then I build the rest of my schedule around them. That way, I won’t miss films like A Somewhat Gentle Man (En Ganske Snill Mann), a dark crime dramedy that’s both clever and quirky.

Stellan Skarsgård stars as Ulrik, a convicted killer who’s just been released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence. Ulrik is a sweet, quiet guy (you might even call him “gentle”) who just wants to put the past behind him and move on with his life—but it’s not that easy. His old boss, Jensen (Bjørn Floberg), has found the snitch who was responsible for Ulrik’s incarceration, and he expects Ulrik to settle the score. In fact, Jensen has already planned every detail of Ulrik’s revenge—and he won’t take “no” for an answer.

At the same time, Ulrik also has his share of personal issues to deal with. Not only is he struggling to juggle three rather amorous women, but he’s also trying to reconnect with his grown son, Geir (Jan Gunnar Røise), who’s reluctant to let his ex-con dad back into his life.

A Somewhat Gentle Man is a crowd-pleasing well-balanced meal of a film, providing hearty doses of moving drama, dark suspense, and quirky, laugh-out-loud comedy.

Unlike many Hollywood releases, this film isn’t afraid of silence. On the contrary, it embraces—and even masters—those quiet moments, drawing out those awkward silences just long enough to get the point across. And Skarsgård plays it all remarkably well, effortlessly conveying his character’s thoughts and feelings through a wide range of amusing facial expressions.

Of course, it isn’t all about awkward silences. There are also some riotously funny moments—often coming from the characters who just don’t know when to shut up. From Jensen’s clueless lackey, Rolf (Gard B. Eidsvold), to Ulrik’s prattling boss, Sven (Bjørn Sundquist), the film is full of comical misfits that help to keep the tone light—despite its dark and often dramatic themes.

Leave it to the Norwegians; A Somewhat Gentle Man is the kind of film that has a little bit of something for everyone—and something for every mood. If you’re looking for a laugh, you’ll find it here (often when you least expect it). If you want family drama, that’s here, too. If you’re in the mood for romance or suspense or gun-toting crooks, you’ll find all that and more in this darkly funny and strangely heartwarming adventure. It isn’t quite as outrageously quirky as some of the other Norwegian films I’ve seen—which is probably a good thing for first-timers—but it’s a surprising film that will keep you entertained and leave you with a wicked little smile on your face.

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