Iceland is Best review

From the October 2021 issue of Film Stories.

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17-year-old Sigga (Kristin Sophusdottir) dreams of leaving behind her sleepy Icelandic fishing village to become a poet in California. Having saved up some money, she announces to her parents and friends that she plans to leave that night, to everyone’s shock and concern. Sigga’s friends Kati, Benni and Gunni decide to take on the role of her ‘guardian angels’, driving her to the airport, but plans go off course when the group pick up handsome stranger Nikki (Tom Maden) who encourages Sigga to stay.

The film’s cinematography cannot be faulted. The story opens with breathtaking shots of the icy landscape and throughout we see the warm colours of the characters’ homes and clothes contrasted against the cold and unforgiving natural backdrop. Cinematographer Dankuro Shinma beautifully captures both the pastel-toned beauty of the country and its sheer remoteness. Sigga truly is in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately, the film’s plot is very disjointed. Writer and director Max Newsom wrote the script for the film after meeting a woman in a video store in Los Angeles, who inspired him to tell her story. It’s difficult to pin down whether Newsom stuck steadfast to the original story or took too many creative liberties, but the logistics of this story never really add up.

It’s an immediately baffling premise. Sigga tells her mother, who believes she’s studying for her exams, that she’s leaving for good. It’s okay, though, because she’s going to make money from her poetry; she just needs to attend her first ever poetry class en route to the airport with her 17-year-old friends who happen to own and know how to drive a coach. It feels like the daydreams we had as youngsters when we’d rather be anywhere than cramming for exams, only it’s clear the film wants to be taken at face value.

It appears Sigga’s quick goodbye visit to her grandfather secures her the cash for a plane ticket (begging the question, how was she going to get to America before?) and she interrupts a group of poetry students to read one of her drafts aloud before scarpering with her friends (one of whom inexplicably carries a canoe with him everywhere they go). Newcomer Sophusdottir plays a yearning teenager with conviction, but when mysterious Nikki enters the picture a series of increasingly bizarre encounters makes her quest at times too confusing to follow.

You can see that the director aimed to create a moving coming of age film with loveable secondary characters. Sadly, though, the inner lives of the characters remain largely unexplored and with the practical elements of a road trip confoundingly disregarded, it doesn’t translate.