Backyard Village


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Backyard Village
"If there's one thing that the ongoing pandemic has reinforced for many people, it's the importance of human connection... which makes Marteinn Thorsson's warm-spirited and humanistic drama a timely watch"

If there's one thing that the ongoing pandemic has reinforced for many people, it's the importance of human connection - and, beyond that, as we Zoom with our friends and relatives, the importance of physical touch. All of which makes Marteinn Thorsson's warm-spirited and humanistic drama - which includes its own hat-tip to Covid - a timely watch.

The Backyard Village of the title is a collection of Icelandic holiday lets - a place which, apparently, actually exists in the real world - where Brynja (Laufey Elíasdóttir) has decided to spend a couple of days after leaving a health spa and rehabilitation centre, reluctant to face what awaits her at home. Her time with her own thoughts is broken when British tourist Mark (Tim Plester) pops round in the hunt for paprika, an exchange which leads to the two of them sharing dinner.

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While Brynja is the more obviously troubled by family events from her past, there's a palpable sense that Mark also doesn't want to be alone with whatever thoughts he has in his head. Thorsson is in no rush, inviting us to pull up a chair and soak up the offbeat conversation as the pair strike up a rapport, with the unhurried pace allows Elíasdóttir and Plester's open performances to deliver the emotional goods without forcing them.

The next day, Mark invites her on a road trip to a remote spot that will gradually allow his story to unfold. This is a gentle film concerned with the unexpected comfort that can come from platonic connections and which deserves to be allowed to tell its own secrets personally.

Although some scenes feel as though they could almost have been written for the stage, Thorsson, writing with Gudmundur Óskarsson, makes the intimacy of the holiday cabins, complete with hot tub and sauna, work to his advantage - and in some ways the very 'stasis' of what happening is the point, in that both of the characters have found themselves stuck in a holding pattern between what has gone before and what lies ahead.

Iceland's stunning natural backdrops are used sparingly, but effectively at key moments and there's a lot of attention to detail evident in the costuming and production design - baby blues might not sound like the most obvious choice to symbolise warmth, but they do just that when accompanied by the wooden chalets and set against the colder, flatter hues of Iceland in winter.

The plot development may rely a little heavily on serendipity in places, the characters ring true throughout, although its a shame Thorsson and his cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson don't employ a little more of the free and easy camerawork of the film's coda earlier on to help the action feel a little more fluid. Still, if there's one thing we could probably all do with right now, it's a hug and Thorsson's film opens its arms to us without judgement.

Backyard Village is screening at Santa Barbara Film Festival

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2021
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Backyard Village packshot
Two lonely souls forge a connection.

Director: Marteinn Thorsson

Writer: Marteinn Thorsson, Gudmundur Óskarsson, Gudmundur Óskarsson

Starring: Laufey Elíasdóttir, Tim Plester, Eygló Hilmarsdóttir, Soley Eliasdottir, Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir, Irma Lín Geirsdóttir, Jóhann Gunnarsson, Helgi Svavar Helgason, Mínerva Marteinsdóttir, Gudrun Eva Minervudottir, Edda Þorkelsdóttir

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Iceland


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