The King of Ping Pong

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Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- A low-key coming of age comedy, co-writer-director Jens Jonsson's feature debut "The King of Ping Pong" recently won both the World Cinema Dramatic Jury and Cinematography awards at the Sundance Film Festival. "King" premiered in January in Sweden and could see modest business in Scandinavian while traveling comfortably on the international fest circuit.

Nerdy Rille (Jerry Johansson), stocky and 16, is little noticed by his peers, aside from the frequent bullying he suffers from several older boys roaming their snow-bound Swedish town. His one distinction is a talent for ping pong, which he tyrannically coaches for a group of younger boys including his more popular brother Erik (Hampus Johansson) at the local youth center. Their ineffectual single mother (Ann-Sofie Nurmi) is trying to launch a home hairdressing business, a problem-plagued project she attempts to drag the boys into as their spring break begins.

The arrival of their father (Georgi Staykov), an affable, emotionally erratic oil rig worker, provides Rille and Erik with a welcome distraction from the boredom of vacation stuck at home. Their dad's impulsive, misguided adventures -- driving the boys across a frozen lake in his jeep and carving donuts in the snowy surface, sneaking the kids into a stranger's home and telling them it's his new house -- highlight his distinct lack of parenting skills and penchant for the bottle.

This imprudent behavior prompts the more staid Rille to wonder if his dad is really his natural father or if there might have been another man in his mother's life. When the truth about the boys' parentage eventually emerges, it provokes a rift between the brothers that Rille proves ill-equipped to rectify.

Jonsson and co-writer Hans Gunnarsson keep the film's slightly off-kilter comedy -- reinforced by occasional visual puns -- and suitably understated, a cue that both the young newcomers and vets Staykov and Nurmi ably follow, until a third-act shift toward melodrama noticeably stifles the humor.

Cinematographer Askild Vik Edvardsen bathes the proceedings with wintry-filtered light that's well suited to the sedate camerawork, enhanced by production designer Josefin Asberg's selection of color schemes dominated by dark colors and subdued pastels.

THE KING OF PING PONG
Bob Film Sweden
Credits:
Director: Jens Jonsson
Writers: Hans Gunnarsson, Jens Jonsson
Producer: Jan Blomgren
Director of photography: Askild Vik Edvardsen
Production designer: Josefin Asberg
Music: Martin Willert
Editor: Kristofer Nordin
Cast:
Rille: Jerry Johansson
Erik: Hampus Johansson
Dad: Georgi Staykov
Mom: Ann-Sofie Nurmi
Running time -- 107 minutes
No MPAA rating
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