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Woman at War (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Woman at War


Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen, Ómar Guðjónsson, Iryna Danyleiko, Galyna Goncharenko, Susanna Karpenko, Jörundur Ragnarsson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada, Charlotte Bøving, Björn Thors, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Jón Jóhannsson, Þorsteinn Guðmundsson, Helga Braga Jónsdóttir, Halla Margrét Jóhannesdóttir, Jón Gnarr and Vala Kristín Eiríkssdóttir.

Screenplay by Benedikt Erlingsson and Ólafur Egill Egilsson.

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 101 minutes. Not Rated.

Iceland is a country known for its beautiful landscapes, challenging climate, and sparsely populated countryside.

For stalwart Halla (played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), it is a land worth protecting from the inevitable influx of industry. We meet our heroine in the throes of creating her fifth power outage. She is enmeshed in a one-woman industrial war against the growing aluminum industry.

Although the risk of capture is mounting, Halla is a character written with nothing to lose. That is until she receives news that her life is unexpectedly about to change.

Both Halla and her sister Asa (also played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) applied for adoption and the country has only recently loosened the rules to include women over 40. So Halla finds herself caught between completing her mission and becoming a mother to a 4-year-old Ukrainian girl, for as she knows, the two cannot occur at the same time.

Her sister also complicates matters by disclosing that she is days away from following her dream to move to India to takeover as a yogi, thus will be unavailable to be Halla’s back up point person should life go awry. Halla just hasn’t told Asa how quickly things are likely to go awry, and most importantly, why.

Halla forms an alliance with her “cousin” Sveinbjörn (played by Jóhann Sigurðarson) and his dog named “Woman” (well, at least that’s what the English subtitles said). Both selflessly help Halla to escape from the law multiple times throughout the film.

Woman at War caught me very much by surprise in so many unexpected, and at times, really funny ways. At its heart, it feels like an ever-turning dark comedy, taking on a very serious topic and adding incredibly quirky twists without ever looking back. It reminded me of a Choose Your Own Adventure story where plot points (and characters) keep getting added in seemingly unrelated ways. But in the end, it all relates, and the strong narrative kept me enthralled.

The score is a delightful treat, presented on screen where the performers add irony and a bit of flare in all of the right moments, lightening the mood while still adding sound that hits hard. At times, the music is performed by a male instrumental trio – always with drums, a sousaphone and at times a piano and other times an accordion. There is also a traditionally costumed Icelandic women’s vocal trio rounding out the musicians. They interact not only with the story but with Halla, almost challenging her to say hey, this is where it gets hard, are you ready?

Rounding out this quirky film is its stunning cinematography, showing off one stunning Icelandic landscape after another, with a sense of immediacy and affection.

Benedikt Erlingsson’s 1 hour 41-minute film kept me wildly entertained, waiting to see where the plot twists would lead. Woman at War is a film worth searching out to watch it in theaters, to capture the intensity of the chase with the stunning visuals on the big screen.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: March 15, 2019.

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