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Nuummioq -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- More than just a curiosity item as the first feature from Greenland, "Nuummioq" is a startlingly accomplished piece of filmmaking, all the more so considering many of the cast and crew are nonprofessionals. Anchored by a riveting performance by Lars Rosing as a robust young man diagnosed with terminal cancer, the film is not easygoing or for all audiences, but for those willing to venture, they will be rewarded with a deeply felt, finely realized film. Obviously not a multiplex item, "Nuummioq" should be a welcome entry on the festival circuit and a natural for a discriminating audience at home.

Filmed in Inuit and Danish around Nuuk, the capital of Greenland (the title means a resident of Nuuk), "Nuummioq" calls to mind Ingmar Bergman and other somber filmmakers from the North Country. But it is a movie full of vitality as it captures the rhythms (slow) and speech (limited) of life in a country rarely seen onscreen. Although certain aspects are specific and unfamiliar, daily events are not that different than for anyone else living on the planet.

Lars (Rosing) hunts, carouses with his friends and womanizes. He is a classic movie strong-and-silent type (reminiscent of a young Russell Crowe), but he has a sea of emotion under the surface. The film starts with him horsing around with his buddies about Viagra, and in a bar scene the camera lingers on the breasts of a young woman who picks him up. But directors Otto Rosing and Torben Bech (who also wrote the screenplay), have much more on their minds. This is just the starting point.

On a trip to the hospital with his Viagra-stricken friend, Lars passes out. Tests are done, and he finds out he doesn't have much time left. Afterward, he sits in his pick-up truck and stares; nothing is said, but all the feeling is visible on his face. It's an extraordinary moment and a great piece of acting.

Lars gets on with his life, such as it is now. He tells no one, not the elderly and loving, but equally silent, grandparents he lives with, nor his cousin and best friend, Mikael (Angunnguaq Larsen), nor his sometimes-girlfriend (Julie Berthelsen). All of them are holding a secret from the past, and now Lars is holding two secrets.

On a boat trip with Mikael on breathtakingly beautiful fjords, amid the nature that has informed his life, Lars comes to terms with his fate and settles some scores from the past. This is not a film with a great deal of action, at least on the surface, but the transformation of a good man is almost a miracle to watch.

Rosing and Bech never push the point too far or too heavily. Showing amazing restraint for first-time directors, they stand back and observe, seeming to always have the camera in the right place. Credit must also go to Danish cinematographer Bo Bilstrup -- working only with two lamps purchased at Ikea -- for so expertly capturing the shadows of life in Greenland.

Other tech credits, executed by a crew of pros from Denmark and amateurs from Greenland, are surprisingly smooth. The indigenous score by Niels Ostenfeld and songs from local artists are used to great effect and complement the story without overpowering it. Thanks to the communal contribution of all involved, "Nuummioq" is that rare kind of film where one can feel the weight and meaning of a kiss.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production company: 3900 Pictures
Cast: Lars Rosing, Angunnguaq Larsen, Julie Berthelsen, Marius Olsen, Makka Kleist, Amos Egede, Morten Rose, Else Danielsen, Anja Jochimsen
Directors: Otto Rosing, Torben Bech
Producer: Mikisoq Hove Lynge
Writer: Torben Bech
Director of photography: Bo Bilstrup
Production designer: Sabine Hviid
Editors: Henrik Fleischer, Niels Ostenfeld
Music supervisor: Jan De Vroede
Original score: Jan De Vroede
Sales: XYZ Films
No rating, 95 minutes