Starring: Jón Gnarr, Jörundur Ragnarsson, Pétur Johann Sigfússon
Director: Ragnar Bragarson
Running Time: 105 mins
Mr. Bjarnfreðarson is an Icelandic film about the story of former petrol station manager Georg Bjarnfreðarson, and how his unorthodox upbringing made him into the man he is today.
Feature-length spin-offs of TV shows can be so hard to get right, but Mr. Bjarnfreðarson, which tells the back story of one of the main characters from an Icelandic TV comedy trilogy, is a wonderful exception.
Funny, heartfelt and engaging throughout, the film takes an established character and adds depth and intrigue to him in leaps and bounds. Meanwhile, the film keeps things on a familiarly small-scale, avoiding the typical mistake of over-dramatising the normal TV format. As a result, Mr. Bjarnfreðarson proves a thoroughly satisfying addition to its televised predecessors.
There’s no need to worry if you’ve never seen the TV series The Night Shift, The Day Shift and The Prison Shift, because this movie is still a hugely entertaining watch even without prior knowledge of the characters. It eases you into the relationship between the three former petrol station employees, with a focus on the new story of Mr. Bjarnfreðarson’s upbringing.
As a result, this isn’t just an extended episode of the TV show, but rather a new story that takes a different approach to the same set of characters. In that, there is a familiarity that will please fans of the series, but it also means that there’s something for everyone to enjoy no matter their experience with the characters.
A staunch Communist with rigid morals yet few friends in the modern world, Georg Bjarnfreðarson is the perfect subject for a feature-length character study, and so proves the case.
Both poking fun at his comical persona as well as offering a heartfelt insight into how he became the man he is, the film is as hilarious as it is surprisingly touching. Jón Gnarr’s performance is enormously entertaining, with dry comic sensibilities that fit his character perfectly, yet acting convincingly enough for you to really sympathise with Mr. Bjarnfreðarson.
Couple that with his bizarre yet darkly funny backstory – brought up by an iron-fisted socialist mother – and the film is rich in depth, emotion and humour. It’s more than just a rehash of the character’s most enjoyably idiosyncratic qualities, but story that deepens your understanding of him as a person.
Paced well throughout and featuring a strong blend of big laughs and deliciously dry wit, Mr. Bjarnfreðarson is a brilliant Scandinavian comedy with international appeal, bolstered by its gripping and heartfelt dramatic depth.
So, even if you’ve never seen the series that made Mr. Bjarnfreðarson famous, his feature-length debut is an absolute joy, with hilarious comedy and brilliant drama from start to finish. And that’s why I’m giving this film a 7.8 overall.