An achingly beautiful film, Aberdeen has an outrageously sentimental premise: Kaisa (Lena Headey) is asked by her fatally ill mother (Charlotte Rampling) to bring her estranged father Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård,) to visit be... more »fore her mother dies. Kaisa finds Tomas--a jobless drunk--at his home in Norway, and basically drags him on a road trip back to Scotland, over the course of which they're forced to grapple with their past. This could be a recipe for maudlin sap, but instead--thanks to sharp incisive writing, unexpected characters, and performances that encompass humor, brutally honest self-destructive behavior, and subtle gentleness--Aberdeen is bracing, constantly surprising, and deeply engaging. The entire cast (including the always solid Ian Hart, of Backbeat and Hollow Reed) is incredibly good. Highly recommended. --Bret Fetzer« less
"If you like independent and/or foreign films in general, I think you'll really like this film. The director says (in an interview on the CD) that Hollywood would not hire him to direct an action film and that's fine -- and that his films reflect his Norwegian character (restrained, among other things, unless alcohol is involved).
This film deals with addiction and a fractured family. Kaisa, a young woman successful in a career but estranged from her father and not seeing much of her mother, gets a call from her mother. She's in the hospital in Aberdeen (Scotland -- this is a town connected with North Sea oil drilling) with cancer, and doesn't have a lot of time left. She wants Kaisa to find her father (in Norway -- he works on oil rigs) and bring him to her. Kaisa reluctantly flies to Norway to retrieve her father. He is a heavy drinker -- very heavy drinker -- and not the easiest person to escort back to Scotland. Flying turns out to be not-an-option, so they end up taking a ferry and then driving. As the trip from Norway to Aberdeen unfolds (and this is most of the film), their characters and relationship are unfolded for us. Kaisa doesn't have it as nmuch together as she first appears to, and her father isn't exactly as hopeless as she thought, either.
Kaisa is riveting, as is her father -- and a young man they meet along the way who helps them. The acting is outstanding. At first the film seemed odd and I wasn't sure what I thought of it, but as time passed, I became engaged with the characters and their struggle.
My only comment is that the drive from London to Aberdeen doesn't take nearly as much time as they seem to take in this film, even taking into account some delays. There were a few other points that left me with questions about the script. I'd chalk it up to literary license and it didn't detract at all from the film.
EriKa | Iceland | 03/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Stellan Skarsgard seems uncannily gifted at pulling off any kind of role asked of him. His range is astounding, but no more so than here in this small, probably little seen gem in which he plays an unemployed drunk who cannot get through a day without getting completely hammered, not wanting to face the realities of his life, apparently. He is, however, jolted back into reality when his estranged daughter Kaisa shows up at his doorstep in Norway insisting that he must accompany her to Scotland to visit her mother and his ex-wife (an always skillful Charlotte Rampling, even in smaller roles), who is dying in hospital. Kaisa is an intelligent, sarcastic businesswoman who, despite sharp tongue and tough exterior, has plenty of her own demons, which certainly helps her match her sarcastic, bitter, drunk father measure for measure when she has to. He agrees to go with her, but getting there turns out to be a gargantuan task when he won't stay sober long enough to fly; they must take a ferry, and Kaisa, impatient by nature, has to take command and babysit this giant drunk lump. She tries to keep it together, be different from him (unsuccessfully, as she too succumbs to a chemical path). Her frustration and the uneasy relationship between them is palpable, and both actors imbue their characters with equal parts strength and vulnerability without making the audience feel sorry for either of them. Though it seems in the end that they are not who they think they are, they still turn out to be two sides of the same coin-stubborn, self-destructive individuals adrift in the world, who remain bound together by their sameness. The sheer drama-ugly, pathetic human drama-that ensues as the girl tries to transport her father is bitter and realistic. The question remains why he decides to make a monumental sacrifice for her at the end? Because he feels obligated or because he knows, whatever blood ties they may have, they are in fact the only two people who understand each other?"
Painful, touching film about bruised family relationships
K. Corn | Indianapolis,, IN United States | 09/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The situation: Kaisa, one tough lady (for good reason, as the film makes clear later on) is asked by her dying mother to bring her father back for one last visit. Kaisa has her work cut out for her, because her father is a difficult case- drunk, surly and bitingly sarcastic to boot. He's more than an equal match for Kaisa...and that's saying a lot.
This situation could make for simple sentimental pap in the hands of the wrong director but here it turns out to be a very believable and watchable movie - although it won't be to everyone's taste. The relationship and years of bad feelings between Kaisa and her father lead to moments which are sometimes painful to watch. If you want a fun, escapist movie, far engaged from hard reality, don't pick this one up. But if you're willing to watch a movie with some bite to it, you should find this one well worth watching. An extra bonus: The music is absolutely wonderful, not the sort of usual background music that tries to tweak the viewer's emotions."
One Of The Better Nordic Movies
Greg T. Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio | 02/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent movie. As noted by other reviewers, the soundtrack is excellent, and the acting is first rate. Skarsgard never seems to miss in any film, but in Aberdeen, his performance as a lost alcoholic groping towards recovery is so good it is on a par with fellow Swede and Cannes Film winner Per Oscarsson's stunning and seminal 1966 performance as a starving writer in Henning Carlsen's Hunger. Lena Headey is remarkable as the talented yuppie with a host of skeletons in her closet. It should also be noted that Ian Hart's performance as the humble, self effacing truck driver Clive is great. He functions as the perfect match and foil to both Skarsgard's and Headey's characters. The final scenes of the movie are powerful, and reminds me a lot of some aspects of the personal life of the great Danish director, Lar Van Trier, who won much deserved accolades for his near perfect execution in Breaking the Waves. Like many Nordic films, Aberdeen isn't shy about nudity as viewers should be aware that there are numerous sexual scenes and frontal nudity."
Road Trip to an Unexpected Place
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 11/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The premise of "Aberdeen" is outrageously sentimental; however, Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter (Criterion Collection Spine #59); Under the Sand), with her trademark dry delivery, has never uttered a sentimental word onscreen in her life. In this movie, as "Helen,"she's supposedly in an Aberdeen hospital, near death with cancer. She calls her daughter "Kaisa," a successful, feisty(as they so often say), London lawyer with sidelines in snorting coke and one-night stands with strangers, played by Lena Headey (Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete First Season; 300 [Blu-ray]). Helen asks Kaisa to go find Helen's husband (common-law or otherwise, we never know), and Kaisa's father, Tomas Heller, as played by Stellan Skarsgard(Breaking the Waves; Mamma Mia! The Movie - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! DVD Gift Set Version). He's previously worked the North Sea oil rigs, but is now back in his Norwegian homeland.
Aberdeen, a town on Scotland's Northeast coast is, in its modern incarnation, pretty much a wild west rootin' tootin' oil boom town, where you might go quite a distance hearing only Texas accents and passing only Tex-Mex eateries. Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus, in his series of mystery novels, calls Aberdeen natives "Wooly Boots, " though I can't remember why for the life of me. The men who work the oil rigs generally work periods of some time; then have some time off, the better to allow them to drink an ocean or two of alcohol at their leisure. But, of course, Tomas is no longer working, he'd sure be dangerous if he were, and he's a nasty, stinky, unmanageable full-time drunk. Mind you, the Scots are hardly known as teetotalers, and the Scandinavians, with their six dark winter months, well...
So Kaisa sets out for Norway to find Tomas; that she does. But between his drunkenness and her temper, they are unable to board a plane, and must drive back: road trip, anyone? This particular road trip follows the conventions of the genre. Kaisa and Tomas discover more about themselves, and each other, than they may have wanted to. They get themselves in a lot of trouble; they'd never have gotten through it without the help of Ian Hart (Wonderland), as the kindly truck driver Clive. There will be some scenes that are almost unbearable to watch. If the movie weren't Norwegian made, and, perhaps, even though it is, it might be described as tartan noir: there's a high level of violence, it surely is bloody-minded, and without the occasional leavening humor, it really might be unbearable.
It does seem to take them quite a long time to get from London to Scotland, though to be sure they have a lot of business to get through on that drive. Also, oddly enough, the movie seems to be filmed entirely, or almost entirely, in Glasgow, no matter where it claims to be. At one point, they are in what I am sure is the magnificent, paneled interior of Glasgow's main train station-- it must have been designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, that city's famous favorite son architect-interior designer, or at the very least, by a student of his-- while they claim to be in Edinburgh.
The acting, with the cast this movie boasts, is superb. Charlotte Rampling makes the most of her few minutes of screen time and her death scene. Lena Headey is beautiful, and makes "Kaisa" so real you worry about her. Ian Hart is excellent as "Clive." But Stellan Skarsgard, a Swedish actor speaking English in a Norwegian movie set in Scotland: he's uncanny. He plays an almost unbearably convincing drunk.
Road picture it may be, but this movie does end up in an unexpected, touching place, as Kaisa and her father do at last seem to break through to each other. If you can stand the ride, the arrival's a great reward."