EUFF 2016: Underdog reveals Scandinavian tensions and immigrant issues in Norway

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      Underdog (Sweden/Norway)

      In Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles.

      Set against the backdrop of the economic reversals of Sweden and Norway, this timely film explores not only immigrant issues but also inter-Scandinavian tensions. The earthy 23-year-old Dino (comedian Biance Kronlöf), sporting an arm in a cast, lives in a cramped apartment with several Swedish roommates who have abandoned their homeland to relocate to the more prosperous Norway.

      Desperate for work in Oslo, Dino lands a gig as a babysitter for sushi restaurant owner Steffen (Henrik Rafaelsen). At his home, tension are arising between Steffen and his shy teenage daughter Ida (Mona Kristiansen), whose eating disorder issues and avoidance of gym class hint at her internal turbulance.


      With his wife away on work in Botswana, Steffen's affections turn toward Dino, who reciprocates. As the two delve into an affair, all manner of awkward social situations arise. Most revealing is a dinner-party conservation in which stereotyping of various ethnic groups (including Polish and Filipino people) and cross-Scandinavian rivalries are casually tossed about.

      Yet these bits of dialogue illuminate the broader context for the relationships, running along class, gender, and national identity lines, that play out within the domestic microcosm. While the characters lean towards blandness, the cast delivers convincing performances and it's the skilled cinematic construction that truly carries the movie. The quiet narrative provides a slow-burn build toward a sweet denouement that upends the predictability of Steffen and Dino's relationship and offers a sense of hopefulness in a situation that has been traditionally portrayed as a no-win situation. 

      Underdog screens as part of the 2016 European Union Film Festival at the Cinematheque at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (November 23).

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.