Considering its total predictability, Patrik, Age 1.5 has no right be as satisfying as it is. And yet, this Swedish film which screens at Outfest on Wednesday night, manages to transcend the gimmick of its sitcom-y plot device (through a typo, a gay couple who believe they are adopting a baby, age 1.5, end up with... wait for it, wait for it… a 15 year-old homophobe!) and deliver a sensitive, moving and wholly compelling film.
If, having read the synopsis, your mind conjured a series of scenes, chances are excellent that what you imagined is in the film; there’s no new ground here (although, to be fair, this film could conceivably be revolutionary in Sweden). The characters are all-too familiar and, the comedy can be irritatingly broad. Perhaps most egregious is the wince-inducing second act, in which the couple, convinced that “their” baby Patrik has been accidentally placed with another family, try to return the Patrik they got. But despite all of that, there is ultimately honest, well-paced storytelling, solid direction from Ella Lemhangen, who wrote the script, excellent cinematography and some stellar performances.
Gustaf Skarsgård and Torkel Petersson play the expectant couple as believably flawed people. And refreshingly, neither has that crisp, pretty look that’s seems to be required of leading couples in American film and television. Thomas Ljungman is the adolescent hellion and, though we know from minute one that he’ll eventually reveal his tender side, when he does he’s heartbreaking. It is those performances that manage to turn the familiar elements into something, if not fresh, than welcome, and that is quite a feat indeed. If the ending is pat, and a bit too tidy, it’s also just the kind of comfort food many of us secretly yearn to see.
Patrik, Age 1.5 screens at Outfest on Wednesday, July 15. For tickets call 213-480-7065 or visit outfest.org.
-- EDDIE SHAPIRO