Following a successful year-long festival run, which began at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2008, Patrik, Age 1.5 makes its way to Ottawa’s Inside Out Festival at the end of November.
Winner of the Best Feature (Audience Award) at the 2009 San Francisco International LGBT Festival, this heartwarming Swedish drama is a surefire crowd-pleaser. Sensitively written and directed by Ella Lemhagen, the film is by turns predictable and sentimental, but the plot is handled with deft sincerity and supported by a uniformly strong cast.
Goran (Gustaf Skarsgard) — a tall, handsome young doctor — has always longed to be a father. His husband and partner of several years, Sven (Torken Petersson) already has a teenaged daughter from a previous marriage. The film finds them moving into a new neighborhood following their approval to adopt a child — news that has them both buzzing.
But Goran’s dreams of fatherhood come to a crashing halt when he and Sven are informed that no outside countries are willing to give a child to a homosexual couple. Rather than let this deter them, they agree to take in a child of Swedish descent and are overjoyed when they receive news that social services is looking for a home for Patrik (Thomas Ljungman), who is listed as 1.5 years old. Problem is, when Patrik arrives on their doorstep, he’s actually 15 years old — and a raging homophobe.
Filmed in hyper-saturated colors in a neighborhood reminiscent of the Desperate Housewives set, Lemhagen seems aware of the banal conventions of her plot: Patrik’s inflammatory presence divides the happy couple, only to bring them back together stronger than ever. What saves the film from floundering in clichés is Lemhagen’s deep love for her characters and her ability to wring out a series of beautiful moments from the cast.
Skarsgard is especially skilled at conveying the depth of Goran’s passion for fatherhood, and Petersson brings across his character’s reservations about adoption without making him seem cold-hearted. The dynamic created by the two is believable and serves to anchor the film’s flimsy premise. Rounding out the cast, Ljungman beautifully captures Patrik’s underlying sadness in a complex performance, sure to surprise audiences given his young age.
Though the film doesn’t offer many surprises, Patrik, Age 1.5 is quietly touching and amusing to watch.