The first thing I should say is that the Daily Mail are going to have a field day over the cover of this film as it shows the film’s 15-year-old protagonist laying on the floor next to a telephone with her jeans around her thighs stimulating herself. Well, sex sells! And if this film was more popular, they would start a campaign to ban this sick filth’, as we see part of an erect penis and 15-year-olds drinking, smoking drugs and wanting to get laid.
But ignore that as this is quite possibly the most realistic teen comedy I have ever seen, dealing with the issues of hormones and the realities of being a teenager. It’s a fantastically written and acted independent film.
15-year-old Alma (Bergsholm) is consumed by her hormones and wishes to fulfil her sexual desires with local boy Artur (Matias Myren). She lives in a middle-of-nowhere town called Skoddeheimen in Norway where nothing happens except school, the local youth club and a spying neighbour. Her best friend Sara (Bjorhovde) is a dead eyed socialist who wishes to escape to Texas to protest capital punishment, and they both hate their home town so much that they flip off the Skoddeheimen sign every time they pass on the bus.
At a party Artur exposes himself to Alma and she makes the mistake of telling her lip gloss addicted two-faced friend Ingrid (Beate Stofring) and thus becomes ostracized at school and earning the nick name Alma Dick’. Meanwhile Alma’s single mother is coming to terms with her daughter’s sexual awakening through phone bills to sex lines and hearing her daughter’s solitary moans at night.
Now let’s get one thing clear about this film: this is no Hollywood coming-of-age story where the goal is to get laid like American Pie (1999) and countless others. In fact not much happens in this film at all that could be classed as traditional teen gross-out comedy. It just reminds you what it was like to be dealing with everyday life as a teenager and coping with the changes within yourself and the world around you.
The film’s opening montage perfectly depicts the alienation of Skoddeheimen, which is full of the sort of beautiful scenery and serenity that you appreciate as an adult, but find mind numbingly boring if you have grown up in it. Right off the bat we see Alma on the floor rigorously having phone sex when her mum comes home. No, we don’t get a laugh as her mother doesn’t walk in on her. Alma hears the door, pulls up her jeans and we get a laugh as Alma apparently doesn’t know why the phone is on the floor. It’s that kind of realism.
We get introduced into Alma’s world and the people of Skoddeheimen, which as you’d expect from a small town features spying neighbours and a community spirit built around the local turnip factory, where Alma’s mum works. Yes, it’s that boring! As such, Alma dreams of leaving this one-horse town to escape to Oslo where Sara’s oldest sister is studying. However mostly she dreams of Artur either coming through her window at night or them escaping to the woods at the upcoming party. Her fantasies are gentle and warm as she describes them in an emotional detail which is a far cry from the likes of Fifty Shades. Later on in the film they are a bit harsh and close to the bone but this isn’t a depressing or bleak film.
However her life is turned upside down when the boy she desires brushes her thigh with his penis at a party, and she makes the seemingly innocent mistake of telling her friend. She takes a boring job in the local convenience store to pay for the phone bill and ends up fantasising with the store manager and experimenting with a roll of coins. But her fantasies are often hilarious in their honesty, as all you can think of at that age is getting laid no matter how unrealistic the situation can be.
But the film isn’t all about Alma. Sara is an interesting character as she seems content on rebelling against the system and is the cool alternative kid who is worried about falling in love as it leads to kids and settling down. Even so she is interested in the local stoner as he doesn’t follow the social norm of showers and deodorants. We have a host of ridiculous supporting characters who help build up this picture of the boring town, but don’t take away the focus that this is Alma’s story.
This leads me to how good this script is, as it’s full of funny and relatable one-liners, believable characters and just seems to flow from beginning to end, developing the characters and events without faltering. Some of the situations reek of kindness and empathy but are mirrored with exile, bitchiness and general high school trauma. But the fact Alma is a strong character overrides any despair thrown her way and her growth into a woman becomes apparent as she takes control of her life. Don’t get me wrong, she stumbles along the way by doing foolish things like smoking hash to appear cool and a few other moments that I won’t spoil, but it’s done in an unglamorous and realistic way and just a part of growing up and discovering who you are.
This film also highlights a single mother’s eventual loss of a daughter who will one day leave the nest, but is rebelling unnecessarily due to manifestations in her own life. It shows how much a parent wants to control their child when the best thing is to just allow them to grow.
I did find that some moments in the film dragged and I was uncertain about the conclusion as it hinted at dark moments. The cinematography is great and the soundtrack is well used, not being as emotionally blackmailing as other American teen movies. It may be unfair for me to compare this film to them, but this is the only basis of comparison for me and I can confidently say that this film excels above most of these and is a refreshing alternative.
There is much more I can say about this film but I’m afraid that I have spoilt too much, so if you’re a fan of new-art cinema, indie comedies or quirky towns and characters like Napoleon Dynamite (2004), then give it a watch: just don’t expect too much. It is perfectly cast in all the roles but Bergsholm is the stand out. It’s a shame that she hasn’t done anything else since its 2011 domestic release, but there is hope.
Overall Verdict: Very funny in places and one of the most authentic’ teen movies I’ve ever seen. No Hollywood glam and dreams, just a horny girl and her life at an important stage of development delivered with honesty, kindness and wit.
Reviewer: George Elcombe