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A Somewhat Gentle Man - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
A Somewhat Gentle Man
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

A Somewhat Gentle Man is the kind of movie that will reward those who are predisposed toward patience -- and will test the patience of everyone else. I won't say it's slow, exactly; but I know a lot of people who would.

The story certainly takes its time in becoming clear and then getting the ball rolling. Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) is just released from prison, where he served twelve years for murder. Even the reason for this murder, as well as who he killed, is not revealed until well into the movie. Director Hans Petter Moland is much more interested in focusing on a deceptively passive man trying to re-integrate into society (in this case, Norwegian society).

While plenty of other films focus on oddball characters, A Somewhat Gentle Man turns the tabes a bit, by presenting mostly very average people as characters, who happen to find themselves in oddball circumstances. Or at least, Ulrik does.

After a friend finds Ulrik a place to live, the landlady who lives in the same building starts bringing him dinner every night. Soon enough she apparently decides this means he's obliged to have sex with her -- and she's not at all coy about it. She lays down on his bed, hikes up her nauseatingly tight-fitting dress, and basically says, "Okay, let's get on with it." And not only is she ridiculously enthusiastic, but the best that could be said of her appearance -- and particularly her face -- is weathered. It's kind of like watching Momma from Throw Momma from the Train fuck her brains out.

There's a lot of weird sex in this movie, and it's not limited to this woman. In fact, Ulrik is understandably bemused, yet strangely passive, about no fewer than three different women -- including his ex-wife -- who practically throw themselves at him. Yet they all have the same detached way about it, as if they're saying, "Okay, fine" -- but without giving him a chance to ask for it first.

Ulrik has a friend who ostensibly helped out his family while he was doing time. Said friend expects Ulrik to kill the guy who testified and got him convicted, as part of repayment for this debt. In the meantime, he gets a job at as a mechanic and embarks on an affair with the business's secretary. It creates a love triangle that unexpectedly involves the business's owner -- whose connection to the rest of the characters is, of course, revealed only in due time.

It may sound like there's a lot going on here, but it never really feels like it while watching. The story plods along, and it's mostly Skarsgård's subdued yet nuanced performance that commands attention. Somewhat predictably, there comes a moment when you find out he can be far less gentle if he wants to be, and it serves as a satisfying turning point in the story. This goes on both as Ulrik's friends hatch a plan for killing the snitch and as Ulrik makes an attempt to reconnect with his estranged son, who is now in his mid-twenties.

Each of these concerns facing Ulrik overlap and influence all his decisions, while his associates and family members are oblivious to what's going on elsewhere in his life. The details do finally come together nicely in the end, although it feels like it took a tad longer than necessary to get there. There is surprisingly little violence for all the talk of murder, and as such A Somewhat Gentle Man is really an actor's movie -- given most of it consists of dialogue (or, in Ulrik's case, a lot of blank stares). As such, it's a movie with a lot of simple pleasures, but not a lot of cause for great excitement.

Stellan Skarsgård is 'A Somewhat Gentle Man'.

Overall: B
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