FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Skillfully blending powerful emotionalism and hilarious dark comedy, this Swedish film from the husband-and-wife team of director Daniel Lind Lagerlof and writer Malin Lind Lagerlof represents one of the most original and audacious love stories in years. The tale of the unlikely love affair between a repressed young minister and a rambunctiously vulgar and beautiful paraplegic, "Miffo" is utterly distinctive and memorable.
A huge hit in its native country, the film faces the usual commercial hurdles for Scandinavian fare here, but an American remake -- starring, say Matt Damon and Cameron Diaz -- looms as a promising possibility. The film received its U.S. premiere at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
The film's central character is 29-year-old Tobias (Jonas Karlsson), who is frustrated working in his big-city parish and yearns to provide spiritual comfort to the downtrodden. To that end, he moves to a depressed area, where the elderly priest has settled into a lethargic routine, jealously eyeing the packed mosque located in a bowling alley down the street. Literally going door to door to meet his new parishioners, Tobias encounters a variety of unsavory situations, including a sex-starved woman who promptly dons a nun outfit. But he's completely smitten when he meets the gorgeous but decidedly off-kilter Carola (Livia Millhagen), who lives with her alcoholic mother and who promptly hits Tobias up for a loan.
Although paralyzed from the waist down, Carola is clearly a highly sexual creature, and it isn't long after their first date (a sequence filled with hilarious slapstick comedy) that the pair hit the sheets, in a scene both tender and erotic that ultimately turns amusing when they are interrupted by Tobias' flabbergasted parents.
Eventually, Tobias is unable to deal with Carola's volatility and strikes up a lackluster romance with the pretty but dull girl who's worshipped him for years, culminating in an episode at their wedding representing the ultimate in embarrassing faux pas.
At this point, the picture takes a melodramatic turn that is less convincing than its comic parts, but the smart screenplay, filled with memorable sequences, manages to provide a terrific conclusion that is every bit as funny as it is moving.
Daniel Lind Lagerlof's unobtrusive but assured directing style mines every comedic and dramatic element from the material, and he has elicited superb performances all around. Karlsson is terrific as the emotionally beleaguered priest, using a deadpan approach that makes the lunacy surrounding his character all the more amusing, and screen newcomer Millhagen is superb as the outlandish Carola, effortlessly combining sultriness, poignancy and an assured comic style.
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