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A Somewhat Gentle Man

A Somewhat Gentle Man
Sunday March 6th, 2011

A Somewhat Gentle Man is a low budget dark comedy from Norway. The Man in the aforementioned title is Ulrik and his weathered, expressionless face doesn't reveal a lot about what he's thinking but after serving 12 years in prison for murder he seems ready to put his old life behind him and follow a prison warden's advice to keep looking forward and never look back. Once on the outside he has to cope with the absurdity of so-called normal life.

He lives in a cramped cell-like room in the basement where the matron is a nymphomaniac who exchanges fish patties and a TV for sex which he obediently provides. He pays a visit to his ex-wife who has no interest in him but offers him a "quickie" for old times sake. His boss at the auto repair shop is something of a taskmaster and although business is slow he frets about nonexistent customers. There is a female employee who is threatened by an abusive ex-boyfriend. She treats Ulrik with contempt until he intervenes during a violent encounter with her ex after which she volunteers sex and inquires as to whether or not he'd be willing to kill her ex-boyfriend.

Ulrik has an adult son, Geir that he is trying to establish a relationship with but Geir's pregnant wife ostracizes him when she learns about his past criminal activities. And as if Ulrik doesn't have enough to contend with his old crime boss, Rune Jensen wants him to murder the man who sent Ulrik to prison 12 years earlier because Rune fears that he will lose all respect in the underworld community if he doesn't punish the guy who fingered Ulrik, his top henchman. The absurdity here is that Rune doesn't realize that he has become a buffoonish caricature of a crime lord and he oversees a "gang" of idiots.

Stellan Skarsgard does a good job portraying the enigmatic, impassive Ulrik. Skarsgard is a respected actor perhaps best known in the US for his role as the MIT mathematics professor eager to enlist the services of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. This is his film. He's in practically every scene and he turns his pathetic character into a 3 dimensional human being that we can identify with. His character never descends into a stereotype. We hope that he will make the right choices but we can never be certain of that.

The director Hans Peter Molland is a film graduate of Emerson College in Boston and he has worked with Skarsgard before on 2 other films.