DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
ABERDEEN (director/writer: Hans Petter Moland; screenwriter: Kristin Amundsen; cinematographer: Philip Øgaard; editor: Sofie Hesselberg; cast: Lena Headey (Kaisa), Stellan Skarsgard (Tomas), Charlotte Rampling (Helen), Ian Hart (Clive); Runtime: 106; Norsk/Freeway; 2000-Norway/UK)
"Directed with a fierce honesty by Norwegian Hans Petter Moland."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A road film about trying to reach somewhere. This human interest drama is one big metaphor about a strained father and daughter relationship. They are trying to find themselves while on the road. The keen dynamics between the down-and-out alcoholic father, Tomas (Stellan Skarsgard), and his cocaine-snorting but successful lawyer daughter, Kaisa (Lena Headey), gives this universal theme (father-daughter relationship) a fresh look. This intense story about a dysfunctional family is powerful but bleak. It is directed with a fierce honesty by Norwegian Hans Petter Moland ("Zero Kelvin"/"The Last Lieutenant").

Kaisa's mother (Rampling) is dying of cancer in a hospital in Aberdeen and after not being close with her daughter for a number of years, calls her in London and asks her to take her alcoholic father, living on a rig in Oslo, to visit her. Kaisa is an ambitious lawyer who wears high-powered business suits, is not afraid of having sex to help her career, and is smart enough to know how to play office politics as good as any man. She has just received an office promotion and is having sex with a stranger (the kind of impersonal relationship she prefers) when she receives the unwelcome call from her mother. Kaisa, who lived with her oil worker father in Norway after the divorce, blames her father for why she is now so cold-hearted and scared to face herself. She accuses him of never being a proper parent. What she has learned best from him, is that you can't trust men.

They can't get on a flight because Kaisa's father is drunk, so they hop a ferry to Great Britain and try to make their way to Aberdeen by rental car. But she gets a flat tire and there's no spare. To her rescue comes lorry driver Clive (Ian Hart). Clive's attracted to Kaisa, but is puzzled by her relationship with her dad. But dad likes Clive, telling Kaisa  he's a nice guy and wonders why she's not attracted to him. When dad is too drunk to resume the journey and has to spend a night in jail, she sleeps with the self-effacing Clive. He perceptively picks up that she's afraid of a real relationship with someone she likes because she's afraid of getting hurt. He, therefore, becomes their guardian angel for the rest of the trip and offers them some common sense advice. But he's in emotional depths beyond what he can imagine, and feels he has become part of their nightmare when he has to rescue the father from a mugging and stop the same rowdy thugs from pummeling Kaisa.

It's a film that avoids clichés, has plenty of energy, and an intelligent script to go along with the brilliant performances by both Lena Headey and Stellan Skarsgard. My favorite line is when the self-pitying drunken father tries to explain himself by saying: "I'm outdated. It is unfashionable to have a mind of your own." Aberdeen is thematically similar to Mike Figgis's "Leaving Las Vegas," except there the end of the journey was most important -- here it is the journey itself that counts the most.

REVIEWED ON 5/11/2001     GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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