Iceland is a tiny country of about 330,000, and geographically isolated. Like many Nordic countries it is perceived as being settled and affluent with a good welfare system. However, like any European country today, it is implicated in the global refugee crisis and the mutual adjustments that this must entail.
All this is unstated background to this quietly powerful drama centred around two lives brought into relation by the new circumstances.
We initially follow Lara (Kristin Haraldsdottir). She is a thirty something single mum so down on her luck that she is scrounging for food and sleeping in her small car with her young teen son Eldar (Patrik Petersson). The bond between mother and son is close and it needs to be because there are so many things about the arbitrariness of the modern society/economy that she cannot fully explain to the trusting and sweet Eldar.
Eventually Lara lands her one chance at a stable job working in airport security. She spruces up and heads into the world of formal employment still unsure if she will make it. Quite early on in her apprenticeship she impresses her supervisor by spotting an irregularity in the passport of a refugee from Guinea-Bissau called Adja (Babetida Sadjo). Later, when we follow Adja’s story we immediately feel how scary it must be to live in the overcrowded margins of a society where fear and flight are the only constants. All Adja wants, really, like any refugee, would be the chance to relax and breathe normally.
Isold Uggadottir’s film is small scale and slowly-paced. It takes its time to show us the character development, not through dramatic or unrealistic big scenes, but rather through an accumulation of telling detail. The friendship (and later, possibly, love) between the two women carries the film engagingly. The natural performance of the wide-eyed Eldar is also a really important counterpoint.
The film is impressive for its ability to tell a near-universal modern story entirely through a close-focus view of everyday life.