'Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts' ('Kvinner i for store herreskjorter'): Gothenburg Review

Women In Oversized Men's Shirts Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Motlys A/S

Women In Oversized Men's Shirts Still - H 2015

Three women on the verge of emotional breakdowns

Yngvild Sve Flikke's directorial debut is a sunny ensemble comedy and pan-generational showcase for Nordic female filmmaking talent.

Falling midway between a chick-lit rom-com and a bawdy Pedro Almodovar-style romp, this appealing Norwegian ensemble production is a little on the sunny side, but it eventually proves to be sharper and deeper than it initially appears. Making the switch from TV drama to features, director Yngvild Sve Flikke freely adapts Gunnhild Oyehaug’s feminist novel Wait, Blink. Oyehaug co-wrote the screenplay, and also provides voiceover duties as a sardonically detached narrator.

After premiering to sell-out crowds at the Gothenburg film festival earlier this month, Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts opens theatrically in Norway in March. Subtitled foreign-language comedies are always a tough sell abroad, so festival interest is more likely than any big commercial buzz. All the same, Flikke’s female-centric feature debut has tons of charm, universal characters and decent remake potential.

Fresh-faced big-screen novice Inga Ibsdotter Lilleaas plays Sigrid, a 23-year-old aspiring poet who rails against the sexist cliches all around her in her pretty little Nordic hometown, including the tired movie motif of a woman who dons her male lover’s shirt after sex. But her youthful ideals are tested by a chance encounter with famous writer Kare (Hallvard Holmen) — who is 20 years older — which blossoms into an uneasy romance. Sigrid’s journey of self-discovery is interwoven with those of Trine (Henriette Steenstrup), a heavily pregnant 40-ish performance artist, and Agnes (Anne Krigsvoll), a 60-something timber warehouse worker haunted by her radical feminist past, which included writing a notorious cult novel and giving up her long-lost son for adoption.

A little too cutesy and whimsical in its opening section, Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts improves once it moves beyond Sigrid’s adolescent angst and begins to exhibit a more self-aware, spiky slant on its own rom-com conventions. Trine is the main comic focus, a stubborn diva forever pushing her outlandish art schemes, like giving birth inside a cage while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Meanwhile, Agnes provides the story’s emotional bedrock with her matriarchal generosity and nagging burden of regrets. As the only significant male character, Kare is inevitably painted in less flattering terms, seducing Sigrid with pompous lit-speak lines like “your hair is so honest.” Ugh.

Flikke does a polished job with her feature debut, adding a sprinkle of magic realism with recurring cameos by cartoon birds plus symbolic slo-mo footage of butterflies, jellyfish and other animals. While the three main women are only loosely linked, each is wrestling with the same dilemma, weighing the trade-off between self-sacrifice and artistic commitment. Technical credits are slick, but a steady undercurrent of cheerfully crude humor is the film’s chief saving grace, constantly undercutting any drift toward deadening good taste.

Production company: Motlys A/S

Cast: Inga Ibsdotter Lilleaas, Anne Krigsvoll, Henriette Steenstrup, Hallvard Holmen

Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke

Screenwriters: Gunnhild Oyehaug, Yngvild Sve Flikke

Producer: Yngve Saether

Cinematographer: Marianne Bakke

Editor: Jens Christian Fodstad

Music: Kare Vestrheim

Casting: Yngvill Kolset Haga

Sales company: Motlys A/S, Olso

Unrated, 100 minutes