A cross-generational friendship provides some solace to two lonely misfits in Icelandic filmmaker Ninna Pálmadóttir’s endearing and richly nuanced first feature.
As the sole resident of a weather-beaten farm in rural Iceland, the taciturn man at the centre of Ninna Pálmadóttir’s first feature certainly seems like he could use a friend. But, as becomes clear in the gruff exchange in one of Solitude’s early scenes, Gunnar (Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson) may have been alone for too long to necessarily understand the delicacies of social interaction.
He’s equally flummoxed by the news that his land has been expropriated by the government, requiring him to leave the only home he’s known. After relocating to the city, Gunnar tentatively begins a new life in a new apartment. But his isolation seems nearly as acute — or at least it does until his initially ill-tempered dealings with his neighbour, Ari (Hermann Samúelsson) evolve into a friendship. The fact that the middle-aged Gunnar’s new pal is all of 10 years old means their connection is bound to elicit apprehension and suspicion. Yet what makes Pálmadóttir’s film so special and moving is how powerfully it conveys the value of this bond.
Working from a screenplay by filmmaker Rúnar Rúnarsson — whose features Volcano (11) and Sparrow (15) both played the Festival — Pálmadóttir imbues her film with the same warmth, nuance, and sensitivity that distinguished her short films. In a manner that feels endearingly modest yet quietly profound, Solitude celebrates the comfort and solace that an unexpected connection can provide, especially for two lonely misfits who could do with a little (or a lot) more kindness in their lives.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival