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Aberdeen (2001)
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by EricDSnider

"A road-trip movie, European-style."
4 stars

A dying woman wants her daughter and the daughter's long-estranged father to reunite at her bedside. Is that too much for a dying woman to ask? Is it too much for a comedy to ask that we should find humor AND pathos in the events her request causes to occur?

"Aberdeen" plays out like "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," if it had been written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Kaisa (Lena Headey), the hard-drinking, hard-sexing party girl whose mom has cancer, heads to Norway to find her dad and drag him back to Aberdeen, Scotland. Dad is Tomas (Stellan Skarsgard), a worthless alcoholic stripped of all dignity and self-esteem. The airlines won't let them board -- you're allowed to get drunk ON the plane, but not before -- leaving Kaisa and Tomas to travel by land.

The road trip is not wacky, per se, but it certainly has some caustically funny moments, such as Tomas vomiting violently on a car windshield. But the whole thing is sweetly affecting, too, as Kaisa and Tomas learn to understand and even love each other.

It's a chewy-centered movie with a scabrous candy shell, starkly directed by Hans Petter Moland and extremely well-acted by Stellan Skarsgard and Lena Headey. There is also, we should not forget, a gentleman accomplice the duo pick up along the way, played by Ian Hart, who provides bystander commentary on the complex relationship between father and daughter.

A few plot developments arise out of nowhere and are resolved with an equal lack of attention. But the movie is to be admired for refusing to romanticize alcoholism and for finding, in its bleak story, much humor and emotion.

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originally posted: 06/30/03 10:44:57
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