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flick pick | Nói albínói [Noi the Albino] 2003
Directed + written by: Dagur Kári
Starring: Tómas Lemarquis, Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson, Elín Hansdóttir, Anna Fridriksdóttir,
Language: Icelandic [with English subtitles]
Look for it at the video store under: foreign [Iceland], drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, darkly comic, quintessentially quasi-adult
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Seventeen-year-old Nói has spent his whole life in a tiny little Icelandic fishing village on the edge of nowhere. He's smart, or so the school suspects, but he's a total slacker when it comes to studying. Nói can't stand sitting around listening to lessons, which means he's always getting in trouble with his teachers and principal, who aren't quite sure what to do with this boy who seems hell-bent on getting himself kicked out. His grandmother does her best to get him up in time to get to school, but more often than not, Nói never makes it there anyway. During the rare times when he actually does bother to show up for class, he spends all his time daydreaming. If Nói keeps it up, he just may end up like his dad, who drives the village taxi, when he's not so drunk that he has to get Nói to cover for him that is. And maybe that's okay with Nói; despite both of their problems, Nói and his dad are sort of buddies, and his dad's the one person Nói actually seems to worry about disappointing. Isolated from the rest of the world in this icy, snowbound little village, Nói knows he doesn't belong here, but has no idea what other options he might have. When he meets Iris, a pretty gas station attendant who's back home after spending some time in the big city, he sees his first real link to the world beyond. Bored out of his mind in his hometown, Nói starts dreaming of getting out -- escaping with Iris from this barren landscape and this empty life, towards somewhere lush and green and vibrant.

Review I'm sort of a sucker for a good coming-of-age flick, even though it's a tale that's been told time and time again. There's apparently something universal about those growing pangs we all experience on our way to adultdom, those feelings of boredom and frustration over how small our world increasingly feels, combined with that inevitable fear about actually going out to explore whatever lies beyond the realm of our experience. The places and times, the fads and fashions -- these might change. But people, it seems …not so much. And so it's always interesting to me to see how similar people really are, despite how radically different the actual details of our lives might be. Nói Albínói gives us a look at what it's like to be an adolescent in an icy fishing village that's almost completely cut-off from the rest of the world. Though the stark frozen landscape, with its eerie-ominous mountains contrasting with the almost-serene soft blue-green glow, is about as far from the world where I grew up as you can get, there's something very, very familiar about Nói himself. He's kind of likable but often a pain-in-the-behind too; he's just another kid who doesn't really fit in, and knows it, but still can't help but be a little scared to leave the only place he's ever known as home. What makes Nói Albínói a particularly interesting example of the coming-of-age genre, however, is writer-director Dagur Kári's deft blending of realism and magic, black comedy and tragedy. So just when you think you know where the story's heading, it has a tendency to surprise you. When you first see the ending, it seems to come out of nowhere; but the more you think about it, the more you realize how perfect it is -- unexpected and ambiguous and open-ended, kind of like life itself.  —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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