Dir. Petter Sommer, Jo Vemud Svendsen, 75 min., Norway
This watchable award-winning tribute to male friendship and vulnerability positively glows with a lowkey charm so redolent of its Northern European origins, and so real it could never quite work as a drama, avoiding sentimentality and cliche to achieve something rare.
It sees a group of 25 Norwegian men in their prime getting together every Tuesday to sing and drink beer. The joke is that they have promised to sing at each other’s funerals and it soon looks like the choir’s conductor will prove the first one to go. It turns out that one of them is diagnosed with cancer and the doctor has given him just a few months to live. Naturally he feels fine. But it’s roughly the time that the choir has to prepare for its biggest gig to date: a warm-up job for Black Sabbath before their concert in Norway 2016. . The countdown has started, and the cancer-stricken conductor and desultory band of ‘choirboys’ try to keep their spirits high with songs about the hardships of middle-age, while they also prepare to say farewell. Soft-peddling over their feelings for the opposite sex, their irreverent banter is always respectfully playful and well-received in this middle-class milieu of contemporary Oslo. The mood is kept buoyant by their community singing that provides the vehicle for sharing their thoughts and opening up, joshing with each other as they do. Rarely has a film been so quietly amusing, and surprisingly moving. The Men’s Room goes straight to the heart and stays there. MT
KRAKOW FILM FESTIVAL | 26 May – 5 June 2019