SIFF 2013: ‘The Almost Man’ Movie Review

by Warren Cantrell on May 28, 2013

in Print Reviews,Reviews

It takes some people longer to grow up and assume responsibility for their lives than others, a theme films like The Graduate, Billy Madison, Knocked Up, and Step Brothers (among many, many others) have all examined to one degree or another.  Henrik (Henrik Rafaelsen) in The Almost Man (Mer Eller Mindre Mannis a perpetual man-child whose mid-life angst and rudderless existence is on par with anything Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, or the like ever pulled off.  Although he’s just moved into a new apartment with his long-time girlfriend, Tone (Janne Heltberg), and recently started a very straight-laced job with a marketing company, Henrik is hardly living up to the expectations of a normal 35-year old.

A perpetual goof-off whose idea of fun is to pretend to get in a verbal altercation in the middle of a crowded grocery store, Henrik nevertheless seems somewhat leashed by Tone.  A stunningly beautiful redhead who is made all the more appealing due to her tolerance of Henrik’s increasingly bizarre actions, one gets the sense that these two have been together for a while.  Tone knows how to operate at the same crazy level as her boyfriend when needed, yet is also the brains of the operation, and understands when it’s time to play it straight for company.  It’s a skill Henrik clearly hasn’t mastered, however, and this conflict propels the events of The Almost Man.

Indeed, although Tone seems to be moving ever-closer towards an adult life, away from all the boyish shenanigans, her partner reacts by moving defiantly in the other direction.  When Tone throws a housewarming party that’s populated exclusively by her friends, he acts boorishly, and does something shockingly ironic with a piece of children’s literature that this reviewer doesn’t want to spoil (P.S. – it’s kinda, sorta hilarious).  At first, one might try to sympathize with Henrik, for his friends clearly weren’t invited to the shindig; yet once Henrik escapes Tone’s party to join the one his buddies are throwing across town, it’s painfully obvious why his cohorts weren’t sent a housewarming invitation.

Henrik’s friends are like something out of the deleted scenes of a Jackass movie, except they aren’t nearly as mature or well-behaved as Johnny Knoxville and his crew.  No, these guys blast music at full volume in the middle of the night, piss off their own balcony, and sucker-punch anybody that comes complaining.  They are little better when sober, for Henrik’s inner-circle isn’t above random bare-assed towel snappings, or snot ambushes if the mood strikes them.  Thus pulled between two worlds, one where perpetual adolescence is encouraged, and another where it’s wilting a slow death, Henrik must decide what is most important to him.

The journey towards this epiphany is a pleasant one, and is made all the more enjoyable by a number of hilarious scenes that involve Henrik, his new job, and his crazy-as-rat-shit friends.  The inevitable showdown between Henrik and Tone seems perpetually around the corner, and as far as resolutions are concerned, The Almost Man definitely doesn’t skimp.

Yet it’s all a bit thin.  Seemingly content to make a film with just two acts, director Martin Lund leaves things hanging a bit, and at a sparse 72 minutes (pre-credits), the film definitely has room to grow.  Although it would be nice to get a little bit more information on what Henrik and Tone’s relationship was like prior to the week this film covers, what The Almost Man really needs is a third act to demonstrate how the events of this picture played out after the handful of days in question.  Henrik and Tone come to a conclusion at the end of this picture, yes, but it’s not entirely clear how this will develop, or how it will play out with Henrik’s friends the next day.

If Tone throws another party, how will Henrik react this time?  Although he made one earnest (hilarious) effort to tell his crude friends off, once and for all, how will the next attempt go, if indeed there is one?

Another fifteen or twenty minutes, and many of these questions could have been answered, or at the very least touched upon for a more complete conclusion.  The fact that The Almost Man doesn’t confront these issues shouldn’t imply that this is a bad movie, however: quite the opposite.

Stunning cinematography, crisp performances, and shockingly funny scenes abound in this one, along with a few humorously ironic music choices that are as clever as the shot selections that act as throwbacks/metaphors in a number of instances (starting the flick with Henrik underwater, in a bathtub, for instance).

Opening May 29 at the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival, one gets the sense that this isn’t the last audiences have seen of The Almost Man, for despite the somewhat familiar nature of its plot, this one is quirky enough to pick up interest from an American studio with a taste for remakes.  Indeed, once they screw a third act onto this one, and rework it as a Zach Galifianakis vehicle, this little comedy might prove to be one hell of rainmaker.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and his own site, 10rant.com. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing. Mr. Cantrell is happily unmarried, and without any children, pets, or plants.

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