Director Ninna Pálmadóttir’s Solitude is easy to miss—particularly during the crowded slate at TIFF. To be clear, I don’t mean the film is beneath notice, far from it. It’s just that its summary reads as a small-scale affair, one without much fanfare to it. This is true insofar as what’s captured on-screen, perhaps; what the film draws out, though, feels much more significant.
After his farm is expropriated by the government, Gunnar (Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson) moves to the city to bide his time. His plans of awkward seclusion are thwarted, however, when local paperboy Ari (Hermann Samúelsson), who’s also at loose ends, decides to befriend the much older man. As written by Rúnar Rúnarsson, there are further dry comic touches to the film and other sources of narrative tension—not least of which, the divorced status of Ari’s parents—yet its main focus is this odd pairing, which eventually draws closer scrutiny from others. Now, I’ll wholly admit to being a sucker for this exact type of film (call it the “old man and the kid” genre), but it really is striking how much Pálmadóttir accomplishes in her film’s relatively short runtime.
Aided by a wonderful score, the natural beauty of Iceland, and the lived-in performance from Gunnarsson, Solitude exceeds the bounds of its modest framing. And while it’s not difficult to predict the pivot of the film’s third act, there’s something in the accumulation of its emotional beats, both big and small, that overwhelms any cynicism by its end. What a world we’d have with a few more Gunnars and Aris around.