Patrik, Age 1.5
Film review by: Witney Seibold
With the recent overturning of Proposition 8 in California (and hurray for that), and the increasing visibility and open tolerance for gay couples in the world, the openly vitriolic intolerance experienced by the central gay couple of Ella Lemhagen‘s “Patrik, Age 1.5” almost feels forced and manufactured. Gören (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Sven (Torkel Petersson), a married couple, move into an idyllic suburb, and most of their new neioghbors are warm and welcoming, but, at unexpected moments, they encounter huge waves of strangely intense hostility from random people (a party is not mentioned, an angry father won’t let Gören treat his son). I guess the armies of vandalizing 10-year-old yelling “homo!” can be understood, but some of the other social slights seem, I don’t know, perhaps a little over the top. I know there is still hatred and intolerance in the world; I’m not naïve. But “Patrik, Age 1.5” seems either out of date, or a little too intense for its own good.
But don’t get me wrong. “Patrik, Age 1.5” is not an essay or a social document of any stretch. Lemhagen has actually tried to make a sweet little romantic comedy with a few cut conceits, a few warm insights, some really fantastic performances, and, like many romantic comedies, perhaps a few too many saccharine moments.
So Sven and Gören have the house they want and the suburban life they have always aimed for, and now they need a child. The Swedish adoption board sends them papers annoucning that they will be the proud fathers of Patrik, a 1.5-year-old boy. What they get instead is Patrik (Thomas Ljungman), a 15-year-old boy with a rap sheet, a cranky attitude, a smoking habit and a healthy dose of homophobia. Gören decides to look after the boy as best he can, but Sven grows rapidly more bitter, and takes to binge drinking and smoking. It’s not long before Sven has moved out, and Gören is stuck with Partik.
Luckily, in a sitcom conceit, Patrik turns out to be a misunderstood sweetheart with a hidden sensitivity and a green thumb, and it’s not long before Patrik has become a neighborhood superstar, fixing up the gardens of all the previously unfriendly people. While some of these cutesy moments had me groaning, I actually liked Ljungman’s performance; he brought more true-to-life hatred and character to the role than, I think, the script really called for. Skarsgård playes not just a frustrated potential father, but lends Gören a soulful sweetness.
The ending is predictable and sappy, and makes the film entire feel like it’s perhaps a little too sweet for its own good. The intense moments are perhaps too intense, and the mellow moments perhaps a bit too mellow, but there were a few brief moments mixed in when we began to feel real pain, feel a genuine connection to the characters, and, fleetingly, give some real thought to the issue of gay adoption. “Patrik, Age 1.5” is a sweet film that almost becomes quite good.