5-Word 365 #131 – Elling

I’m going to be honest here: this wasn’t my first choice of film for today. I had been streaming a flick from a subscription rental service which shall remain nameless (in case I start feeling a bit libelous) but it kept having to stop and buffer. It took almost an hour and a half to suffer through just the first fifty minutes, then I gave up. Luckily, I had a replacement all ready to go. That other film may still make it to the column at a later date. I can tell you’re all on tenterhooks now.


The (very) Odd (Norwegian) Couple

Elling is a man in his 40s who has lived a very sheltered, co-dependent life with his mother. After she dies, he is taken to an institution until he can show that he is able to look after himself. His roommate there is Kjell Bjarne, a 40-year-old virgin – beating Steve Carell to the punch by four years – and gentle giant who is enthralled by Elling’s made-up stories of his adventurous past. After two years, the Norwegian government sets up Elling and Kjell Bjarne with their own apartment in Oslo where they have to be self-reliant for the first time. Joy ensues.

One of the many benefits of sharing a flat with a Finn is that she keeps bringing home all sorts of great Scandinavian films that I probably wouldn’t even hear of otherwise. Out of all of them that I have watched, this is the best. Not even the best Scandinavian flick, it is immediately one of my favourite films. Per Christian Ellefsen and Sven Nordin play Elling and Kjell Bjarne, and their friendship is the emotional base the film is built upon. Watching them develop from socially crippled outcasts to who and what they are at the end (no spoilers here today) filled me with a sense of happiness and contentment that you just don’t get from Hollywood. I felt so proud of them that I was actually almost tearing up at one or two of the more emotional scenes. The Christmas Eve sequence, for example, is a nigh-on perfect set of character moments.

Kjell Bjarne was always so happy when Elling agreed to pick up another tub of Swarfega.

The script by Axel Hellstenius is constantly funny and often laugh-out-loud hilarious, particularly some of Elling’s voice-over moments. It is an adaptation of the first in Ingvar Ambjørnsen’s four Elling books; the last of which has also been filmed with the same cast and director. There is also a prequel film about Elling and his mother that isn’t from one of the books. I am going to try and get a hold of those other films as well. I’ll let you know if I’m successful. The direction by Petter Næss is subtle but effective. He obviously realises that all he needs to do is point the camera at these two actors and just let it run. At 89 minutes, the film moves at a fair clip and tells a complete, deeply satisfying story but another fifteen or twenty minutes would have been welcome, even if only to spend some more time with these characters.

According to the Internet Move Database, an American remake is currently in development. The name has been changed to Elliot and the expected release is sometime in 2013. Even if this new version does come to pass, please take my advice and watch the Oscar-nominated original*. Then come back here and tell me how much you love it.

*Best Foreign Language Film 2002. And it was robbed.


  1. todayiwatchedamovie · May 11, 2012

    Being on tenterhooks sounded painful so i looked it up and learned a new word today! Thanks!

    • Ryan McNeely · May 11, 2012

      You. Are. Welcome. Every day’s a school day, after all.

  2. fernandorafael · May 13, 2012

    Nice review. I have to say, that awful poster is really misleading! haha

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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