Dir/scr: Dagur Kari. Iceland-Denmark. 2015. 94mins

Virgin Mountain 2

Believe it or not, the title does not refer to a specific geographical site but to a very specific human being. The man is vastly mountainous, 24 stone or more, rather disheveled, in his forties, terribly shy and introvert, still living with his mother, works on the ground crew of an airport loading and unloading airplanes, plays at home with toy soldiers and meticulously reconstructs on a table the grounds and the armies fighting the battle of El Alamein. He is a giant with a Michelin Man silhouette, still a kid at heart, with the man waiting for a chance to come out.

Dagur Kari, true to his own brand of humour, keeps it all simple and straightforward.

Such is Fusi (Gunnar Jonsson) the hero of Dagur Kari’s endearing, tender romantic comedy, a belated coming-of-age story sensitively told, with just the right touch of melancholy shades to make it all the more plausible, unerringly avoiding all the pitfalls Hollywood would love to fall into, in similar occasions.

A loner whose only friend is a neighbor sharing his fondness for WW2 battles, Fusi is often the butt of his colleagues at work and of their dubious sense of humor, but would rather endure their cruel practical jokes than complain against them. When a little girl downstairs befriends him, her freshly divorced father goes straight to the police to complain, for what would a very much grown-up man have in common with an innocent little girl. His only solace is sitting in his van, at night, phoning in requests for heavy metal songs on the local radio show or having a Thai dinner every Friday night, always ordering the same dish and never taking chances.

But sooner or later, something is bound to happen. His domineering mother has an affair and wouldn’t mind having him out of her hair every once in a while. Her lecherous new boyfriend offers him a free coupon for a dance school, where he meets Sjofn (Ilmur Kristjansdottir), a friendly young woman who turns out to have a heavy load of personal problems as well. The encounter between these two lonely souls leads to an unlikely affair, full of ups and downs, told with a slight smile at the corner of the mouth that luckily never degenerates into guffaws, every once in a while there is the suggestion of a tear that is carefully not spelled out, all of it leading to an unpredictable ending, probably the only possible one in the circumstances.

Dagur Kari, true to his own brand of humour, keeps it all simple and straightforward. Emotions are suggested rather than declared, the characters, the background and - most importantly - the unobtrusive choice of camera angles and direction allow the story to flow freely, naturally and credibly ahead. Gunnar Jonsson’s Fusi can’t take a wrong step if he tried to - he part seems tailor-made for him, his performance conveying, without any apparent effort, all the gamut of emotions that takes him across the border separating belated adolescence and early maturity. Ilmur Kristjansdottir’s Sjofn may be a smaller part but she handles it with aplomb and this goes for the rest of the cast as well.

Production companies: RVK Studios, Nimbus Film

International sales: BAC Films Distribution, www.bacfilms.fr

Producers: Baltasar Kormakur,Agnes Johansen

Cinematography: Rasmus Videbaek

Editors: Andrei Steinn Gudjonsson, Oliver Bugge Coutte, Dagur Kari Petursson

Production designer: Halfsdan Pedersen

Music: Slowblow

Main cast: Gunnar Jonsson, Ilmur Kristjansdottir, Sigurjon Kjartansson, Franziska Una Dagsdottir, Margret Helga Johannsdottir, Arnar Jonsson, Thjorir Saemundsson, Ari Matthiasson, Fridrik Fridriksson, Ingunn Jensdottir