January 06, 2011

MOVIES: Patrik, Age 1.5 (Ella Lemhagen, 2008/2010 US)

The Swedish movie Patrik, Age 1.5 looks at a gay couple in a different stage of their relationship than most American gay movies, which tend to focus on the early "meet-cute" and courtship. Sven and Goran (Torkel Petersson and Gustaf Skarsgard) are married, settling into a new home in a small suburb, and have just been approved to adopt a child.

When the notice arrives that "Patrik, age 1.5" will be arriving at the end of the month, the men are excited. Goran is more so than Sven, who already has a teenage daugher from an earlier marriage, and has some slight hesitation about going through the parenthood thing again.

Both are rather upset, though, when Patrik arrives, and they realize that there was a crucial typographical error in that initial notice: Patrik (Tom Ljungman) is 15. He's got a history of serious delinquency, and he's not at all happy to have been placed with a gay couple. But he shows up late Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, so they're stuck with one another until at least Tuesday.

Director Ella Lemhagen, who also adapted the script from Michael Druker's play, doesn't run from the cliches in the story; it's inevitable that Patrik's presence exposes the cracks in Sven and Goran's relationship, and that the three will eventually become a happy family. But the actors are charming, and they bring enough subtlety to their performances that the journey is, for all its predictability, a pleasant one.

Skarsgard (son of Stellan) has a irresistible sweetness, and Ljungman does very well with Patrik's reluctant softening; you can't help but root for them to find a way to be together as father and son. Petersson has a more thankless role as the relative villain of the piece, but he makes Sven's ultimate transformation and acceptance believable.

Not an earthshattering cinematic accomplishment, but a sweet little charmer.

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