I got a chance to rewatch an old favorite film of mine with Kate, my brother, and his wife:
It was a somewhat tough sell when I popped in the DVD and the Norwegian issued from the speakers and subtitles appeared on the screen. Not exactly what you'd think of to watch late on Christmas Eve. Kate and I knew how wonderful the film, and then first my brother began to realize it, and shortly thereafter, his wife was convinced, too.
In the film, the eponymous character is a mama's boy. He has lived with his mother all his life. She did all the shopping. She handled all the bills. She was even the one who used the phone.
Problem is that his mother has just passed away, and the police find poor Elling, hiding in a kitchen cabinet in his mother's apartment, hoping that these strangers would just leave him alone.
Elling is carted off to the local mental hospital, where he forms an unlikely friendship with his dorm roommate Kjell Barne: a 40-year-old virgin who thinks of only sex and food. The enormous, enthusiastic "orangutan" Kjell Barne seems like an unlikely compadre for the intensely private and persnickety Elling, yet the two form an immediate bond, and two years later, they're given their big chance.
Norway's new social welfare program has provided the pair an apartment of their own, a chance to demonstrate to the doctors and social workers that these two people are capable of living outside the institution. If not, as their social worker is quick to point out, there are plenty of other people waiting for the apartment. This seems a no-brainer, but try telling that to Elling, who passed out from anxiety on trying to enter the grocery store across the street, or to Kjell who often goes for weeks without bathing or even changing his underwear.
Yet the friendship between the two of them is great, and they work together to try to master the art of living in the real world: often to hilarious results.
"Elling" is a wonderful film. It's warm, funny, poignant, quirky, moving, and ultimately, very human. And it was just the right movie to watch with our loved ones at the darkest time of the year.