Magnolia Pictures | Release Date: July 6, 2018
5.9
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Mixed or average reviews based on 12 Ratings
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jackhunterDec 5, 2019
There is nothing smart about encouraging or having fun about the basic instinvts of human. This movie only shows crualty and encourages negativity about human being. It is also sad to see crualty against animals is also standardized
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6
Bertaut1Aug 19, 2018
Decent, but forgettable

Nordic comedy is jet black, with its opacity often such that non-Nordic audiences are left asking "was that really a comedy?" Not necessarily because they didn't find it funny, but because they're not entirely sure
Decent, but forgettable

Nordic comedy is jet black, with its opacity often such that non-Nordic audiences are left asking "was that really a comedy?" Not necessarily because they didn't find it funny, but because they're not entirely sure what parts they were supposed to find funny, how they were supposed to find it funny, even if they were supposed to find it funny. In Iceland, the term for this kind of comedy is "gálgahúmor" ("gallows humour"), comedies which focus on dark subjects which one wouldn't immediately recognise as comedic.

Written by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson and Huldar Breiðfjörð, and directed by Sigurðsson, the film begins with Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) throwing out her husband Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson), for cheating, forcing him to return to his parents, Baldvin (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir). Next-door live Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and his wife Eybjorg (Selma Björnsdóttir), who is closer in age to Atli than she is to Konrad himself. The two couples are in the midst of a passive-aggressive dispute concerning a large tree in Baldvin and Inga's garden, which is casting a shadow over Konrad and Eybjorg's sundeck. Baldvin is open to the possibility of trimming it, but Inga point-blank refuses. What the film does is to juxtapose the two main conflicts, as they each becomes more and more bitter, and the parties involved more extreme. And this is the film's core - a serious marital conflict contrasted with a farcical neighbouring conflict.

This is how a lot of gálgahúmor works - the serious and the absurd placed alongside one another. An especially good example of this in Undir trénu can be found in the opening scene. The film begins with Agnes and Atli going to bed, as Agnes puts in ear-plugs, and the sounds of a couple having sex can be heard. The film then cuts to a shot of a couple in bed, with the sound bridging the cut, letting the audience know this is the same couple heard in the previous scene. Except it isn't. Another cut reveals that this couple are in a film Atli is watching on a laptop in the living room. Wearing headphones, he doesn't hear Agnes come in, and as he begins to masturbate, she asks him if he's watching porn. Slamming the laptop shut, denies it. However, he is unaware that the porn he was watching is now playing on the computer screen behind him, in full view of Agnes. However, the farcical manner in which the scene has progressed thus far is undermined as Agnes realises he hasn't been watching professional porn - rather, he has been watching an amateur video, in which he is the star. The multiple misunderstandings and layered realisations, coupled with a well-handled manipulation of audience expectation render the scene farcical, but rounded out with a much more serious tone.

The film also features elements which are much more straightforwardly funny. For example, as Agnes and Atli's split becomes more and more bitter, Baldvin chastises Atli, telling him that he and Agnes should have been able to sort things out by now, talking things through "like grown-ups". Good advice. Except, when Baldvin offers it, he is about to spend the night sleeping in a tent in his back garden so as to prevent Konrad from cutting down the tree.

Unfortunately, however, for a film with such a farcical plot, it's immensely predictable. About twenty minutes in, I guessed how it would end - not just in terms of where the plot would go, but I literally guessed what the last shot would be. That kind of predictability is never good. It's also a little difficult to see what Sigurðsson is trying to say. Part absurdist comedy-of-manners, part satire of first-world problems, there isn't a huge amount of substance here. Is the film offering up a commentary on the inherent pettiness that can come to dominate divorce proceedings, or is it more concerned with mocking the self-importance of middle-class suburbia?

Also, when the inevitable happens, and the humour gives way to inexorable darkness, with the two conflicts dovetailing, and tragedy enveloping all six main characters, I don't think Sigurðsson handles the transition especially well. Rather than allowing the material to become as serious as he does, perhaps maintaining a comic through-line would have been more effective. Instead, the film lets the comedy drop away entirely.

All in all, it's enjoyable enough but there isn't a huge amount of substance, and, in the long-term, it's not especially memorable.
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