When you are in your twenties, the last thing you want to do is become the authority figure in your parents' lives. You are still trying to find your own way in the world, figuring out what works for you and how best to get ahead in life. Kaisa (Lena Headey), a young Scottish lawyer on the fast track in London clearly feels that way. Having recently been promoted at work, she's less than thrilled when her estranged mother Helen (Charlotte Rampling) telephones and asks her to go to Norway to fetch her hard-drinking father Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) and bring him to Aberdeen for a detox program. The quintessential yuppie, she is consumed with acquiring status symbols (the right car, expensive designer clothes), dabbles in recreational drugs (cocaine) and has the occasional one-night stand (it helps if the man is a stranger as she has an issue with intimacy). Resistant at first, Kaisa finally agrees, setting in motion the film's main story.
After renting just the right car, Kaisa arrives in Norway and discovers her father in his usual drunken stupor. When she learns that he's completely unaware of the reason for her visit, she begins to suspect that something else is at play. (In fact, Helen has her own motives for wanting to reunite father and daughter.) Committed to the trip, Kaisa convinces her father to travel with her. After being refused seating on a plane because of Tomas' inebriated condition, father and daughter are forced to set off by car and boat to reach Aberdeen.
While the outline of the film may sound boring or grim, it is in fact a chance for two fine actors to strut their stuff. Under the guiding hand of co-writer-director Hans Petter Moland, the leads offer beautifully realized performances. Skarsgård, who had previously collaborated with the Moland on ZERO KELVIN delivers a layered turn. He's not the standard issue romanticized drunk seen in some movies. Instead, he's a man struggling with demons, which makes the character both detestable and sympathetic. One can identify with his daughter's conflicted emotions in her dealings with him. Headey emerges as an actress of power and conviction, mining the nuances of her character as she struggles to forge a bond with her parent. Kaisa is willful, proud, hard-nosed and excitable and in the hands of this actress, totally unforgettable.
In supporting roles, Ian Hart delivers a fine turn as a truck driver who comes to the aid of Kaisa and Tomas when they are stranded and becomes embroiled in their psychodrama. Rampling is terrific in her few scenes as Helen. She and Skarsgård played a similar couple in Jonathan Nossiter's film SIGNS & WONDERS and the duo share a lovely rapport that works in both films.
Philip Øgaard's cinematography is appropriately moody and captures the natural beauty of Norway and the grittiness of British cities. If the screenplay by Moland and Kristin Amundsun falters a bit at the end, it still provides a nice showcase for its gifted cast.
Rating: B MPAA Rating: NONE Running time: 113 mins.