From director Leiv Igor Devold, Norwegian Dream tells a multi-layered story that handles the complications of young queer love, homophobia, racism, Unions, and a whole lot more. However, it did leave me wishing the film ran just a bit longer to do each narrative thread justice.
I was provided a free digital screener of Norwegian Dream for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Spoiler Warning: This review of Norwegian Dream contains spoilers. Tread carefully.
Set in scenic Norway (I want to go there), the premise deals with a 19-year-old Polish immigrant named Robert (Hubert Milkowski) arriving to work at a fish factory to help support his mother back home. He strikes up a friendship with a colleague named Ivar (Karl Bekele Steinland) and the two grow close. However, Robert and Ivar face quite a lot of trouble due to homophobia, a Union-busting administration, complicated emotions, and such.
Both leads delivered an enticing performance with Robert being more subdued and Ivar being more open when it came to expressing their sexualities. I liked how the story paced itself as it allowed the audience to learn more about Robert and why he was drawn to Ivar. And with Robert stepping away from Ivar during a pivotal drag show performance, the writers did a good job of showing why Robert acted the way he did. Robert wanted to be open like Ivar, but it all happening a bit too fast for him.
Robert had experienced a horrific case of homophobia in Poland and while Norway was supposed to be safer, he was unable to exhibit his true self due to the nature of his workplace. Robert’s colleagues and flatmates were a-okay with making homophobic and racist remarks under the guise of jokes. I wouldn’t say that they would go as far as gay-bashing Robert and Ivar if they found out about them being queer. I mean, frankly, I think everyone could tell something was going on between Robert and Ivar. But still, considering Robert’s only 19, having him keep his head down around such type of masculinity made sense.
You can’t help but root for Robert and Ivar when they tell each other about their dreams for the future. Ivar wanted to leave the small town to become an actor while Robert wanted to open up a gas station. Their dreams stemmed from where they currently were in their lives. Ivar wanted to feel free as he struggled against a father who wanted Ivar to find a proper job and become more of a man. Robert, due to his past, wanted to be financially stable. He wanted to stop worrying about where the next paycheck would come from. Living his life as an out gay man wasn’t a priority for Robert, at least, not yet.
Along with the budding young queer romance, the narrative also highlighted how greedy systems exploit immigrants. The owner of the fish factory did what he could to prevent the workers from forming a Union. Before that, the contracts the workers signed had them working illegal hours, with their overtime being “banked” instead of them getting paid more.
The landlord of the apartment complex where Robert and the other workers lived wasn’t any better. She too found ways to continue making the tenants pay her more money. I have never heard any landlord ask for a security deposit that was three times the monthly rent!
The Union-related stuff forced Robert to pick a side. Would his need to secure money to help his mother (who was under a lot of debt) triumph standing with the workers?
I think the writers nicely showed why Robert made the decision he did. I didn’t agree with him, but it was understandable for such a character. The good news is that he saw sense before the end of the movie and refused to let certain circumstances continue dictating the type of life he wanted to live. It was time for Robert to think about himself.
In my opinion, Norwegian Dream offered a well-acted multi-layered queer romance story through strong leads with a whole lot of chemistry. It’s the type of queer film I would recommend you watch when possible.
Having said that, I did feel that the approximate 90-minute runtime was a bit limited. From Robert’s hesitation to associate himself with Ivar’s drag performance to coming to terms with Ivar being the boss’s son, there’s a lot more the narrative could have dived into.
I wanted the film to give me more scenes between Ivar and his father with both characters butting heads over how Ivar wanted to express himself as a queer young man and standing with the Union. I would have also liked to see more of Ivar’s perspective concerning the casual racism he experienced.
There’s a scene where Robert asked Ivar if he had ever had to face hardships growing up, and I was like, I get where you’re coming from Robert, but you need to be more aware of who you’re talking to. From where Robert stood, Ivar had a level of privilege due to his father owning a fish factory. But still, that didn’t mean that Ivar had lived an incredibly easy. He was a young queer POC. And the film had already established the racism going on in the workplace.
Again, there’s just a whole lot this film wanted to talk about. And while it did touch on it all, it could have been extended at least 10 more minutes to flesh out certain storylines. Also, I would have liked to see a scene featuring Ivar’s drag show and Robert being supportive. We did get a scene of Robert doing a bit of drag to get back at Ivar’s father, but still.
On that note, I would have also liked to see Robert stand up to bullies for Ivar and himself. Such a scene would have aided the narrative circle back to Robert’s experience with homophobia when he was unable to do anything to protect the gay dude he was hooking up with. Robert did confess his love to Ivar at the end, but as I said, his colleagues didn’t come across as the gay-bashing type.
Now, don’t let my mild criticisms deter you from watching this movie. In a way, all of my comments could be chalked up to how I wanted Norwegian Dream to be longer because it’s an enjoyable piece of queer cinema. I wanted to spend more time with Robert and Ivar and I think you will too.
From writers Justyna Bilik, Gjermund Gisvold, and Radoslaw Paczocha, Norwegian Dream will be released on Video On Demand as well as physically come January 2, 2024.
Mark your calendars!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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