101 Reykjavik, based on Hallgrimur Helgason’s novel, is a piquant, picaresque and ironic look at Iceland’s welfare state society at the turn of the 21st century.
Hlynur (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) is an aging world-weary adolescent in his thirties, unemployed, not seeking employment, given to spending his life between the two screens of his Mac and his TV, and between the claustrophobic confines of the apartment he shares with a mother (Hanna Maria Karlsdottir) who is a remnant of a pot-smoking hippie culture and of the nightclub he frequents almost daily with a couple of friends. (The film opens trenchantly with Hlynur, tiredly and stressfully and mechanically going through the expected motions in bed with Hofi (Prudur Vilhjalmsdottir), who is more interested in him than he is in her.)
This passive, withdrawn, intelligently and wryly observant, yet inert and angst-ridden, personality is jolted out of his comfortable cocoon of inaction when his mother invites home her lesbian lover Lola (Victoria Abril), a flamenco dance teacher. During New Year’s Eve, when the mother is out visiting, Hlynur and Lola have a frenzied and riotous night of sex. He progressively becomes possessive about Lola, only to be put through an emotional somersault when his mother reveals her lesbian inclination to him and her and Lola’s decision to stay together as a lesbian couple.
He is given the double whammy when he is imparted the news that the two women in his life plan for Lola to have a baby with “donated” sperm. It is only after the baby is born and Hlynur’s mother offhandedly and delightedly remarks that his and the baby’s noses are identical that the extreme quirkiness of the new reality dawns upon him: he is his “brother”’s father. It is finally in this new role that Hlynur locates a meaning to his life.
The film is bitterly funny and closely and shrewdly observed. The director, Baltasar Kormakur, also plays a not insignificant part as Prostur, Hlynur’s zany friend. He employs beautiful balletic aerial shots by the cinematographer, Peter Steuger, to showcase the crisp, crystal clear, brilliantly sunlit landscapes of Iceland. He makes use of an expressive, pulsating music score by Damon Albarn and Einar Orn Benediktsson. The sound by Kjarton Kjartonsson is excellent.