Reviewed by: Neil Mitchell

Icelandic cinema has delivered a couple of notable and diverse international hits in recent years, from the indie vibe of Baltasar Kormákur's 101 Reykjavík (2000) to the same director's grisly crime drama, Jar City (2006).

With the establishment of the streaming website Icelandic Cinema Online and the forthcoming publication of the book World Film Locations: Reykjavìk, the DVD release of Baldvin Z's Jitters points to a growing interest in the country's cinematic output. This teenage coming-of-age drama, the feature debut of Z, has garnered positive reviews from the likes of Variety, had a strong domestic run and won awards at the Kristiansand International Children's Film Festival and the Kvikmyndir.is Festival in Reykjavìk.

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With a tagline reading 'Life is happening right here, right now', an emerging gay romance between 16-year-old Gabriel (Atli Óskar Fjalarsson) and his new friend Marcus (Haraldur Ari Stefánsson) is the central focus of Jitters' multi-stranded narrative. Revolving around the sexually confused teenager are a range of familiar character types from coming-of-age movies – promiscuous party goer, depressed wallflower, bumptious best friend – all caught up in situations with universal resonance: generational divides, familial strife, peer pressure and encroaching adulthood.

The ensemble cast of relative unknowns and first timers, sprinkled with more established acting talent, are the real strength of Z's by-numbers movie, with the fresh faces and naturalistic performances breathing life into a familiar melange of adolescent angst, hedonistic parties and relationship traumas. As is the norm for teens, the adults under whose roofs they live are a constant source of embarrassment, resentment and anger, with drunks, physically or emotionally absent fathers and overbearing guardians all adding to the already stressful pressures of growing up.

There is a ring of truth about Jitters and Z directs in an unfussy manner that allows the characters' reactions to their individual and collective predicaments to remain the focus of attention. An upbeat score made up of contemporary pop music lends the movie a bright, breezy feel that works well as a contrast to Jitters' serious themes, and the characters' moments of melancholia, quiet desperation and most poignantly grief. The movie's 15 certificate is wholly indicative of its target audience, and that's Jitters' downside, weakening its chances of being an attractive prospect across the board.

Older audiences and those familiar with the raft of coming-of-age films that are a staple of cinema-going will find the dilemmas and their resolutions a little too obvious, predictable and simplistic. There's the nagging feeling throughout that you've seen it all before, and often far more memorably, despite the impressive cast and their impossible to dislike characters. An early comment by Gabriel about Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused both places the characters in the 'real world' and gives an indication as to the terrain Jitter's inhabits, though Z's movie is minor league compared to that and other classic coming-of-age movies.

Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2012
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A refreshing coming of age story which plays like an Icelandic Skins.
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Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Baldvin Z

Writer: Ingibjörg Reynisdóttir, Baldvin Z

Starring: Atli Óskar Fjalarson, Hreindís Ylva Garöarsdóttir Hólm, Haraldur Ari Stefánsson

Year: 2010

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Iceland


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