by Marta Bałaga
- Severe storm alert: André Øvredal brings love and thunder back to Norway
Mortal [+see also:
interview: André Øvredal
film profile], currently celebrating its international festival premiere at Finland’s Night Visions, is a rare case of a film that almost manages to salvage what seemed pretty much unsalvageable for most of its running time – thanks to a fun twist halfway through, not all is lost, and by the end you could even hear a little laughter at the Helsinki screening (obviously held with all COVID-19 precautions in place). What comes before that, however, is a film of sometimes epic clumsiness, not aided by recognisable whiffs of Europudding coming from every side, as hobo-ish Eric (Nat Wolff, channelling Pierce-Brosnan-as-Robinson-Crusoe vibes yet clearly auditioning for some future big-bucks gig here) seems stuck in a Norwegian forest in the Odda region for way too long, hiding mysterious burns on his body and an even more scorching secret.
It’s an atmospheric enough beginning, but once Eric encounters the locals, bad acting and clunky accents run wild. An annoying kid loses his life as well and after that, anything goes. Someone pretends to be an American, a car chase no one asked for ends before you can even realise that it was a car chase, and the film multiplies close-ups of people looking upset – chief among them a young psychologist and Jennifer Lawrence lookalike (Iben Akerlie) who joins Eric once he goes on the run, as equally inept Norwegians and fake Americans trail his every move. Not a hard job, as his affliction is certainly not of the discreet sort.
With a script so clumsy – Akerlie’s character actually says “I love ferries” at one point, to which Brick Tamland’s “I love lamp” should be the only acceptable answer – Eric’s torment as he fails to control his dangerous powers, whatever they might be, isn’t as affecting as much as it should be. There is something a bit Hancock-y about the whole enterprise, though silliness ultimately outweighs the film’s sombre tone and classy visuals, making the most of its locations. Indeed, if someone appears able to kill people with nothing more than a touch, giving him a hug should at least be preceded by a brief moment of reflection. Eric actually spells it out: “If you touch me, you burn.” There.
Accompanied by a tiring score, which comes to sound more and more like someone repeatedly throwing themselves at a piano in sheer despair, there are many, many problems with this film. Although it might be one of Øvredal’s weakest to date – the man who brought us Troll Hunter [+see also:
interview: Andre Øvredal
film profile], no less, for which nothing but eternal gratitude is in order – it undoubtedly continues his interest in bringing the mythical into everyday life and, a true miracle given such an unfortunate start, might actually warrant a sequel. Hopefully with even more ferries.
Directed by André Øvredal, Mortal was produced by Rory Aitken, John Einar Hagen, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ben Pugh for 42, Automatik Entertainment, Eldorado Film and Nordisk Film Production, with Nordisk Film handling distribution in Norway, Signature Entertainment in the UK and Ascot Elite Entertainment Group in Germany.
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