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Norwegian Good

Members of the Norwegian tourist board won't be flipping cartwheels over the dingy, smothering, rain-sodden views of the Oslo slums director Pal Sletaune employs in his new feature Junk Mail. And the film's scruffy, rat-faced protagonist, Roy (Robert Skj3/4rstad), a furtive postman who takes revenge on his nasty bosses by stashing huge bundles of letters in a train tunnel, is not exactly the guy they'd photograph for visitor brochures.

But as the study of an alienated outsider who finds a redemption of sorts when he slips into the troubled life of a deaf woman who works at a dry-cleaning shop, Junk Mail has its several beauties. Among them, tenderness discovered amid misery. And the pull of romance revealed like a miracle among the loveless souls of the city's underbelly.

Director Sletaune, who peddled his work at half a dozen film festivals, finally picked up a distributor (Lions Gate) after winning first prize in last year's International Critics Week at Cannes. That's nice to see. Because this modest tale about a tormented, no-talent bureaucrat who winds up saving a woman from suicide (and perhaps saving his own life as well) is the kind of film that can easily slip into oblivion. Instead, it's seeing the light of day abroad.

Skj3/4rstad and co-star Andrine S3/4ther, who plays the deaf girl, Line, are astonishingly effective as strangers caught in a web of violence that is not of their doing. The real villain, who has beaten his victim into a coma, is Line's surly boyfriend, George (Per Egil Aske); the real grace of Junk Mail is the way it gives Roy and Line a way out while dispatching George not with violence, but via a tidy black joke involving mistaken identity.

If you have a taste for dismal gloom leavened by unexpected laughter, take time to see this.--Gallo

Junk Mail.
Screenplay by Pal Sletaune and Jonny Halberg. Directed by Pal Sletaune. With Robert Skj3/4rstad, Andrine S3/4ther and Per Egil Aske.

 
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