Dir: Solveig Anspach. Iceland/France, 2008. 92mins.
Five years after Stormy Weather, which was partially shot in Iceland, Solveig Anspach returns to her native country for Back Soon. But the mood has entirely changed. Leaving behind the dark themes of the past, Anspach opts instead for this surprisingly light, good-natured crowd-pleaser of a comedy about a Reykjavik pot dealer which should be a big hit in all territories, with the exception of those which are averse to subtitles (and there’s always the possibility of a remake there).
She turned down an offer to shoot in English with American stars for this, and although she had only 25 days in which to film it, Anspach and her cast and crew evidently had a great time throughout - it shows through. Didda Jonsdottir, who played a deranged woman in Stormy Weather, returns as your friendly neighbourhood grass dealer, Anna and invests her character, a non-nonsense mother-of-two, with just the right amount of madness to keep you watching.
Anna supplies grass for half of Reykjavik. It is a highly-profitable but exhausting line of business for a mother of two teenage sons and a sideline career as a published poet (who has already been translated into several languages). With the profits nicely banked, she puts her ‘franchise’ up for sale. Anna soon finds a customer willing to pay the exorbitant asking price she demands, but he needs 48 hours to come up with the cash, at the end of which she will hand over her precious mobile phone which has the names, numbers and addresses of all her customers.
But 48 hours can be a long time when fate is conspiring against you.
Anna’s younger brother drives her around but objects to her smoking pot in his car and kicks her out. The precious cell phone gets lost and after a while starts ringing in the belly of a gander, while an American pilot approaches Anna’s older son, Ulfur (Aegisson), introduces himself as his father, and invites the angelic-looking teenager to come and visit him in America. At home, her regular customers are waiting for Anna to return with the merchandise, and in the meantime, they talk, sing, drink, and smoke, packing the small flat to capacity. Among them is a French student preparing his Ph.D. thesis on Anna’s poetry, a rap singer working on his very own weed commercial, a surgeon on his way to the hospital and a woman boxer who wants to arm-wrestle all the men. No one seems particularly anxious as the hours go by, patiently waiting for their favourite pusher to come back home and fulfil her duties, but Anna has taken a detour involving an Irish hitchhiker and the hospital.
Briskly edited, and never taking itself too seriously, the movie displays an enormous amount of sympathy for all its characters, and the entire cast inhabits these seemingly-tailor-made roles with great ease. The local landscape lends a pleasant background to the colourful human fauna and Martin Wheeler’s sunny score gels well with the rest of the proceedings.
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Skuli Fr. Malmquist
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