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Sons of Norway ("Sønner av Norge")

Quebec Premiere

“Celebrates the imperfections in everyone with a playful snarl… hilarious, heartfelt, rebellious and original” — Shane McNeil, TORONTO FILM SCENE

It’s the end of the ’70s in Rykkinn, a suburb of Oslo, Norway, and man, does it show. Magnus, his wife Lone and their two sons, teenage Nikolaj and his little brother, reside comfortably enough in one of the blocky, graceless social democratic housing complexes common to Scandinavia of the era, complexes Magnus himself designs as an architect. Cleanliness, propriety and pine trees are ubiquitous. Progressive values are the norm in this family and its circle — “Coca-cola is the black blood of capitalism,” Magnus cheerfully informs a thirsty Nikolaj. But this suburban dad takes it even further, celebrating an atheist Christmas with a banana motif and other such displays of residual hippie radicalism. The family is shattered, however, when Lone is killed by a car while riding her bike. Gripped by grief, anger and sadness, the surviving males must find their paths to peace following the loss. For Nikolaj, the path reveals itself soon enough — one listen to the Sex Pistols and he’s hooked. Or rather safety-pinned, wrapping himself in punk rock’s righteous rage and raucous noise. But what of Magnus? Well, you know what they say… like son, like father!

Adapted for the screen by Nikolaj Frobenius from his own autobiographical novel “Theory and Practice”, Jens Lien’s acutely Scandinavian coming-of-age yarn reaches beyond the tested tropes of the genre. It’s all very well to kick back against conformity, but how is an angry lad supposed to rebel against the previous generation when the previous generation wants to rebel with him? An exceptional young actor, Åsmund Høeg delivers a vivid portrayal of Nikolaj, projecting the boy’s inner turmoil with subtlety and effect. Sven Nordin, meanwhile, commands attention as the equally foolish and forlorn Magnus. A nostalgic Norway of the era is captured with a smirk and attention to details large and small. Likewise the sociocultural shake-up that punk rock set off at the time. The Sex Pistols and a number of Norwegian punk bands stud the soundtrack, and John Lydon, aka Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, served as an executive producer on SONS OF NORWAY and even makes an inspired cameo — watch for it!

— Rupert Bottenberg