I Remember You Movie Review
Written by Jeff Tolbert
Released by IFC Midnight
Directed by Óskar Thór Axelsson
Written by Óskar Thór Axelsson, Ottó Geir Borg and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (novel)
2017, 105 minutes, Not Rated
Theatrically released on November 10th, 2017
Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Freyr
Thor Kristjansson as Garðar
Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir as Líf
Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir as Katrín
Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir as Dagný
I was supposed to go to a conference in London this week, but my connection to Reykjavik was canceled due to inclement weather. I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise, it being, you know, Iceland and all. But it was super disappointing.
I Remember You is an Icelandic movie, in case you were wondering what the hell any of that had to do with anything. And boy does Iceland look cold in this film. Everybody is bundled up all the time, and the landscape, while beautiful, is super bleak and frigid-looking. There are two main narratives here: one follows Freyr, a psychologist whose son Benni disappeared some time before the movie begins. Freyr is asked by a local police detective named Dagný to help document a suicide at a church. The other storyline follows married couple Garðar and Katrín and friend Líf, who journey to some isolated spot in Iceland’s hinterlands to convert an old abandoned house into a B&B.
As Freyr and Dagný work on the suicide case, certain details emerge, as they tend to do, which tie the two narratives together. Freyr is working late one night when a shadowy figure who might be his missing son Benni leads him down to the morgue, where he discovers that the recent suicide victim’s back is covered in cross-shaped scars. This opens up a new avenue of inquiry in the case, and Dagný tells Freyr that the police have pulled the files on a previous case centered on the same church, which also involved a person with cross-shaped wounds on his back. Meanwhile, (also) in Iceland, Garðar, Katrín, and Líf start encountering their own Weird Stuff, which of course is tied to Freyr and Dagný’s Weird Stuff.
This is an exceptionally slow film. I generally enjoy a good slow burn, but even I found it difficult at times to watch this with my full attention. But that isn’t really a criticism so much as an observation. It’s a quiet, meditative piece (for the most part), exceedingly Gothic in its treatment of place and weather and in its atmosphere of melancholy tinged with just a tiny hint of supernatural fear. There’s nothing new here, and one or two moments when people don’t seem to react properly. (“There’s a corpse down there” is a statement that requires more emotion, one would think, than it was afforded here.) There’s a clichéd scary notebook written by a scary dead child, and a few instances of really bad CGI. There’s also some really better-than-decent acting, especially by Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Freyr, who is quiet and stoic for almost the entire film, but finally shows some human feeling when the weight of his son’s disappearance proves to be too much.
There’s also a scene with Icelandic reggae in the background, and that alone makes it worth watching.
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