FúsiIronic as it might be, “slight” is the adjective that best describes Virgin Mountain, an Icelandic drama comedy that features an enormous manchild’s first tentative steps into adulthood at the tender age of 43. The 94-minute film, the fourth feature from Dagur Kári, is largely (no pun intended) an exercise (too little of that for the main character), in walking a narrow path between cliche and implausibility. While the sheer likeability of the two leads will have audiences rooting for their, and the film’s success, ultimately director Kári, working from his own screenplay, cannot overcome the limits he imposes on himself in attempting a retelling of a too-familiar tale.

Fúsi is a 43-year old, 300-plus pounder, still living at home with Mom, who gets more action in an afternoon with her boyfriend than her son has seen his whole life. Fúsi works as a baggage handler at the airport and spends his spare time meticulously recreating scale models of famous battles. He’s Aspergers Lite, but don’t make a thing of it. Life for Fúsi is as predictable as his order at the Chinese restaurant that he frequents one night per week. That is, until Mom and her Old Man shake things up with a gift certificate for line dancing lessons, where he meets Sjöfn. Suddenly, life is no longer a stale slumber through long days.

Sound familiar? Your grandparents saw the same movie in 1955: Marty. Ernest Borgnine was the live-with-mommy loser, who goes to a dance and meets the girl of his dreams. Here, it is Gunnar Jónsson, who possesses a Nordic nobility that shields his character from becoming cartoonish, even as he is predictably, if hurtfully, bullied at work by louts and humiliated at home, when he befriends a young girl new to his apartment building. Jónsson plays Fúsi as a boy on the edge of adolescence, who senses what he should be doing and how he should be feeling, but does not have a clue as to what comes next.

When Sjöfn (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir) turns out to be damaged goods, Fúsi does what he can to fix her, but his narrow range of experience reduces him to a child who sees a bird with a broken wing and believes he can mend it by adopting it. The sweetness of his motives are never in question, even while the efficacy of his approach is never convincing. Still, Virgin Mountain has a handful of special moments. Fusi takes drives to relax, ending up at the same spot each time, where he phones into a DJ from his car to request heavy metal songs. The one time he has Sjöfn with him when he calls is a small delight.

Part of the pleasure of the film is discovering Iceland cinema, an all too rare treat. The performances and the production are first rate. Jónsson and Kristjánsdóttir are charming as the ill-matched pair, and Franziska Una Dagsdóttir is perfectly precocious as the young downstairs neighbor, Hera, who wants to know if Fúsi has any girl toys to go along with his military models. The ruggedness of the landscape matches the idiosyncrasy of the characters. For those intrigued by Virgin Mountain, Metalhead is also highly recommended. This 2103 feature from the far, far north island portrays another outsider, a young woman who uses Black Metal music to deal with grief. She is on the other end of the sweetness scale from Fúsi, but the two make nice bookends.

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