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101 Reykjavík
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Reviews & Ratings for
101 Reykjavík More at IMDbPro »

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32 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Hot stuff from Iceland

10/10
Author: analog-3 from London, UK
21 September 2000

At first I thought this would be yet another melancholic Scandinavian psycho-drama involving a boy and his coming out lesbian mum. The plot is indeed somewhat along these lines, but there's nothing melancholic let alone Scandinavian about this funny funny movie.

However this is not exactly a comedy either although it turns out to be comical enough. Rather it's a slice of life seen through the glasses of an almost 30 years old drone, brilliantly played by Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, living off benefits and his far too indulgent mother.

Hlynur the anti-hero sleeps til noon, loafs around at home all day and drinks all night. Although he manages to sleep with members of the opposite sex, he can't bear to wake up to them. In other words he's a modern Peter Pan refusing to grow up -- if you can imagine Peter Pan as an apathetic chain-smoking sloth in a parka. And he seems fairly content with his simple non-life until Victoria Abril waltzes in .

The scene where Hlynur's mum confesses her new found sexual direction is nothing short of wonderful. It has an unerring ring of truth to it: a family drama played out over a quiet cuppa in the kitchen and it manages to be moving and hilarious at the same time. In that very scene Gudnason also shows off his exquisite acting skills: with great restraint and uttering PC platitudes he betrays the emotional battle raging within. Pathetic yet sympathetic.

Hlynur is played with just the right blend of indifference, impotence (although not sexual) and self-pity needed for the part and, though fairly unsympathetic to begin with, he grows on you as he reveals himself as a lost little boy. That much of his depressive nerd personality is more or less kept throughout the whole process is yet another proof of the quality of the acting and writing in 101 Reykjavik.

All the main actors central to the plot give stellar performances and many of the marginals too. The music is interesting, scored by our very own Damon Albarn (of Blur) and Einar the Sugarcube (Bjork's Svengali). I especially liked the ambient-reggae version of the old Kinks standard Lola.

Some of the dialogue is in Icelandic which is fine as long as it is subtitled. Much of it is however in English delivered in a bizarre -- but fortunately intelligible -- cocktail of Icelandic and Spanish accents.

There are few drawbacks to this flick, the main one being the obligatory landscape scene of some glacier or lava... I forget. But that's like criticizing a three star restaurant for a spelling error in the menu. -- The superb Reykjavik nightlife scenes are however not to be missed and could well serve as advertisements for Icelandair.

One nice oddity is the nowadays little used narrator voice-over. Well, actually Hlynur serves more as a commentator to the respective fixes he finds himself in, deadpan, mordant and hilarious, but rarely explaining much which the viewer hasn't already divined far better than Hlynur himself ever will. I suspect that these comments are original quotes from the novel on which the film is based.

Played out with extremely dry, self-depreciating, almost Jewish humor, the movie draws to an end as a fairly touching story of familial love disguised as an adult coming-of-age movie, wrapped inside a black comedy. And as often enough happens in real life this Gordian knot of personal problems more or less unravels itself. In a movie however such a solution may seem cheap, but this one gets away with it as the characters just carry on with their lives after redefining the nuclear family.

This is the directing debut by actor/director Baltasar Kormakur, who also wrote the script. Actors do often not make the best directors, but Kormakur proves to be an exception to that rule. The characters are well developed as one could expect, but they are not allowed to get in the way of the storytelling, which relies more on visual details and physical acting than endless dialogue and over-dramatization. This is doubly impressing considering the literary origin of the movie.

And maybe this is a clue to why this film works so well: it is uniquely Icelandic (or should I say Mid-Atlantic), drawing on European and American filmmaking traditions, thus enjoying the best of both worlds: old and new. I know it will work in Britain and Europe and the Americans seem to like it as well judging by the rave review 101 Reykjavik got in Variety and the success at the influential Toronto film festival.

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26 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

You won't stop laughing

9/10
Author: andibert from Freiburg/Germany
30 January 2004

This is one of the funniest movies I watched recently. A 30 years old guy, still living with his mother, refusing to get a job and quite retarded in regard to any relation with the opposite sex, runs into one crazy situation after the other, and his complete disability to handle them simply makes you scream out laughing. Yet, the humour in the movie is not of the dumb slapstick or nonsense kind, but, with some exceptions, actually quite intelligent, as social issues like sexual orientation, identity and general problems of way of living are dealt with. The spanish girl, as an intruder in the rather decadent and boring scenario of small Reykjavik, raises questions and perturbs the world of the small family perfectly by first seducing the son and then the mother, though unwillingly. Great acting. If this movie had a broader audience, it could really have become a big hit; now it encants only a limited number of spectators with its (very un-nordic) warm, easy and comfortable atmosphere and leaves you very satisfied. Big recommendation!

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Cold world

8/10
Author: paul2001sw-1 (paul2001sw@yahoo.co.uk) from Saffron Walden, UK
8 January 2005

Iceland is a strange country, isolated from the rest of the world and with a strong sense of its traditional identity; but also affluent, liberal and with a reputation for hedonism. '101 Reykjavik', named after a district of its capital city famed for its nightclubs, takes a wry and jaundiced look at that society, viewing it through the perspective of Hlynur, a depressed, childish and insular young man living at home with his mother. Hlynur seems a very Icelandic sort of anti-hero, and the link between the nature of the characters and their place of abode gives this quirky comedy a distinctive and authentic feel, although it seems slightly surprising how much female attention the socially defective Hylnur is able to attract. There are more sophisticated movies out there, but '101 Rekjavik' is always entertaining and certainly worth watching, especially to anyone who's wondered what it really must be like to live in such a peculiar outpost of the western world.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Excellent snapshot of Icelandic life

8/10
Author: huygens from France
8 November 2005

I have been living in Iceland for a year and a half and got a picture of the country, its people and its capital, Reykjavík (I actually even lived in the 101 postal code in Reykjavík). This movie is really highlighting a type of persons that I have met quite often in Iceland. I think it is a clear and accurate picture of an important part of the young population. The main actor, Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Hlynur), is really expressing this disillusion that you can feel while enjoying Reykjavík's night life. If you want to go to this marvelous country or if you just interested how one can survived after a few months winter night, this is the movie to go watching. But do not worry, there is more than that in Iceland.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Kaurismaki meets Almodovar

7/10
Author: Chris Bright from London
17 October 2004

Others have rehearsed the plot so here are some general comments.

The best thing about this film is Victoria Abril who is not so much a woman as a force of nature. I must admit I've not seen any of her work with Almodovar, but I was surprised to learn from the DVD filmography that she's been working in European cinema since as long ago as Richard Lester's 1976 "Robin and Marian". She was 40 when this film was made, so hardly a 'toygirl' for the fiftyish mother (although quite a catch, it must be said).

I guess Lola was changed from an Icelandic character to Spanish to draw in the European art-house audience but it's still a decision which works well as she personifies an outside force which arrives and turns Hlynar's world upside down.

The film feels very much like the novel adaptation it is - quite a lot of voice-over and exposition - but there are a number of deadpan cinematic jokes of the Kaurismaki variety, combined with sexual outrageousness in the Almodovar vein. Some of the humour only becomes apparent on repeated viewings; in all the fusion of styles works surprisingly well.

Overall, this probably won't change your life but it's a lot of fun.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Real World

10/10
Author: Lotta from Helsinki, Finland (Akureyri, Iceland)
19 December 2001

101 Reykjavik blowed my mind off when I saw it. Mine, who's lived in Iceland, spent (too!) much time in 101 Reykjavik and seen it all. It's so real that it's a bit scary; life really can be like that in Reykjavik. I'd recommend this film to someone who's interested in the Icelandic way of living and doesn't get shocked too easily! To make the experience deeper and fuller, also read the book! It's shockingly thick but worth every word in it.

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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful but not complete.

6/10
Author: irishju from Helsingborg, sweden
14 May 2002

I saw the film 101Reykjavik during one of my sessions as a projectionist at a movie theater in Helsingborg. I had no previous knowledge of the film neither had I heard anything about it, but boy was I in for a treat.

Although the movie seems incomplete story wise, the characters and the dialog is superb and some of the plot twists make you fall out of the chair in laughter. So despite the lack in story development the overall experience is great. The music (by among others Damon Albarn) compliments the pictures wonderfully with its playful themes of the old classic "Lola". It is really a variation of the old "Slacker" theme but it is done without any moral judgement on the characters. Some people aren't ment to become important and some are. Hlynur (the protagonist) is constantly torn between his selfconscious criticism of the world and the inevitable fact that he has to live in it and he gets by as best as he can. Would the story had been allowed to develop even further the movie would have been the ultimate voice of the "Slacker" generation but since it falls short the best one can do is just take it for what it is and enjoy.

I would warmly recommend the movie to everyone under 35, the older generations might want to check out something else.

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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A Fresh Viewpoint

9/10
Author: a.v. boy from New York City
7 August 2001

This film is a fresh look at life itself. Being set in an unfamiliar environment, it gives the viewer a chance to see what might be an otherwise familiar story with a fresh set of eyes. Well, okay, strictly speaking, the story IS a little unusual, but that's not my point.

There are a few things you should probably know about Reykjavik before you see this movie. It's not really very cold, for one thing. Sitting out at the end of the Gulf Stream, it has very temperate weather, rarely above 72F (20C) in summer and typically around 30F (-2C) in winter. You could probably get by in a sweater most of the year, at least in the city. (Far away from the city, in the uninhabited middle of the country, you'll find a couple of active volcanoes and the largest glacier in Europe.) For another thing, it's an amazingly alcoholic place. When we were there, beer (well, weak beer, anyway) was sold in soda machines. People drink until they pass out in public, especially when getting primed for 3-day weekends (bank holidays), and it's not considered shameful -- their more conscious drunken friends just help carry them to the bus/airplane/car. People line up around the block to get into discos, even in the summer when it's light 22 hours a day. These people party hearty. If this seems like a conflict with what is supposed to be a predominantly Lutheran country, it might be, but nobody seems to let it bother them too much. But, back to the movie...

This movie is both a frank look at this gleefully debauched ambiance, and a more personal look at our hero, Hlynur. For the sake of discussion, let's call him a fully-grown bird yet to leave the nest. You could describe this movie a number of glib ways, none of which would be truly accurate. "Coming-of-age." "Self-discovery." "Rebirth." "The meaning of life." "Sex, drugs, and Rock 'n Roll."

What it is is funny. Really funny. Hlynur is sort of an existential being, and the world mostly happens to him. He's not sure why and not sure what it means. Should he find it tragic, incomprehensible, or just funny? For him, comfortable in the ennui of his unchallenging existence, these disturbances are a bit of a challenge. For us, the audience, what it is is seriously entertaining!

The directing is terrific. The acting is excellent. Victoria Abril is a treat, as usual, but the rest of the mostly Icelandic cast manages to keep up. And the endless "Lola" remixes are hilarious. A lot of fun, highly recommended.

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25 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

911 Iceland...

6/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
19 August 2004

This more or less seems to become a new trend: European countries – not particularly known for their rich history in film-making – surprise the world with semi-artistic movies telling us how boring life is in this particular country. F*cking Amal did so for Sweden…and 101 Reykjavik represents Iceland's pride and joy. I really like the lackadaisical tone of this film and especially the main character Hlynur is great! I love these Icelandic names, by the way…and the language is lovely! Anyway, Hlynur is a 30 something single man who gives cigarettes to 4-year-olds and daydreams about butchering his closest relatives with a shotgun…on Christmas day! He still lives with his mother while he already looks forward to drawing a pension. Oh, he also occasionally bangs his mother's Flamenco dance-teacher. Her name is Lola and every time her name is mentioned the song by The Kinks can be heard on a harmonica, which is rather funny. Anyway, Hlynur doesn't know that Lola is the lesbian toygirl of his mother…Just your typical day in 101 Reykjavik.

101 Reykjavik is very funny, only because the main character is such a loser! And everybody knows is a lot more interesting to observe a loser instead of a fake action hero, right? The different subjects handled in this film all may look very controversial, but the terrific use of black humor and satire makes it a lot easier to digest. And, it must be said, the film features a few extremely ingenious findings! In a brilliantly comical scene, Hlynur irritates a traffic warden by putting extra coins in every parking meter so that he can't write a single ticket. I'd certainly recommend this film, as long as you're not expecting an authentic masterpiece. It's clever, creative and filled with nudity (male and female). If they made one lesson clear with this movie, it's: don't ever settle in Iceland!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Well done!

5/10
Author: danny-418 from Reykjavík, Iceland
21 July 2008

Sexy Spaniard Victoria Abril heats up the wintry city of Reykjavík in 101 Reykjavík. Icelandic slacker Hlynur (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) lives on welfare with his mother, leading a depressed and aimless existence. His mother invites her flamenco teacher, Lola (Abril), to live with them; while his mother is away for New Year's Eve, Hlynur and Lola have a drunken fling. But upon her return, Hlynur's mother tells him that she and Lola are lesbian lovers--and it soon comes out that she and Lola are going to have a baby together. 101 Reykjavík seems to be the contemporary Icelandic version of American movies of the 1970s like Five Easy Pieces, in which anti heroic characters struggle to make sense of a world that doesn't seem to have any place for them. The movie is a bit unfocused, but its urban malaise feels genuine, if not particularly new. Abril is delightful, as always.

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