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ELLING

The title character (Per Christian Ellefsen) in this Norwegian film from Petter Næss is a self-proclaimed "mama’s boy"; when his mother died, he was left a 40-year-old child with no survival skills and severe social anxiety. So off he went to an institution, to spend the next few years being mothered by the state. His friend and roommate, the Gérard Depardieu–esque Kjell-Bjarne (Sven Nordin), is a slovenly and sexually obsessed middle-aged virgin. This odd couple are thrown together in a state-run home and given the opportunity to prove they’re not hopeless cases. Frank (Jørgen Langhelle), the social worker who looks after them, uses tough love to motivate them to buy groceries, eat at a restaurant, and even answer the telephone. When Kjell-Bjarne starts dating the pregnant woman he’s found collapsed in the building, Elling is forced to go out alone and seek his identity.

Næss likes to keep on the lighter side of mental illness, so he tries to keep this buddy comedy from turning into a psychological profile. Even when Elling discovers his calling as a poet and starts stuffing sonnets into boxes of sauerkraut, you feel good, because he’s making progress. In Norwegian with English subtitles. (89 minutes)

BY JONATHAN STERN

Issue Date: September 12 - 19, 2002
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