Iceland Is Best review – quirky coming-of-age indie never takes off

Feisty teenager Sigga longs to move to California from her small hometown in Iceland. At least the scenery’s interesting

Here’s yet another quirky indie film with a feisty teenager who longs to get as far away from her birthplace as possible. The setting is a small fishing town in Iceland, however, which lends an interesting international flavour to a movie where, curiously, all the Icelanders speak English to one another. This is because Sigga (Kristín Auður Sophusdóttir), the disaffected protagonist, is about to board a plane to Topanga, California, and so everyone must speak “Californian”. Alas, the script is just as thin as this bizarro excuse.

Accompanied by a group of her best friends, one of whom always carries a canoe with him because, again, this is a quirky coming-of-age-film, Sigga’s numerous attempts to leave home are constantly thwarted by chance encounters. She randomly sits in a poetry class whose teacher is played by Judd Nelson, an entertaining nod to 1980s teen comedies, even though he is not given much to do. She also meets Nikki (Tom Maden), an aspiring poet who later proclaims his devotion to her before accidentally breaking Sigga’s leg. These haphazard incidents, however, only fuel Sigga’s desire to take off.

The old adage declares that the journey is more important than the destination, but in this case, both of them are pretty boring. The characters are mostly composed of behavioural quirks and one-liners; this might have been charming if these off-kilter details actually cohered into some sort of emotional truth. Unfortunately, even the motive for Sigga’s California move remains fuzzy and underexplored. In place of dialogue, a copious amount of pop music is deployed to mirror Sigga’s inner thoughts, in effect turning the last half of the film into a series of mini music videos. The main pleasure to be gleaned here is the breathtaking sight of Icelandic landscapes. Just like the movie, however, they are simply emotionally static postcards.

• Iceland Is Best is released on 8 September in cinemas.

Contributor

Phuong Le

The GuardianTramp

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