Woman at War

Woman at War ★★★★

What a delight this turned out to be. Another case of going to see something I knew nothing about just because the timing of the screening was perfect, and I walked out having loved what I'd just seen.

Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is wonderful in her double role here. Mostly, she plays Halla, a middle-aged choir teacher living a secret life as a one-woman environmental activist saboteur squad. She has it in for a local aluminum plant and the government doing business with them, and she has no fear of doing what she believes she must. Watching her play David to the power line's pylon is something to see, and the opening sequence in specific is nothing short of gripping in its execution. Watching that scene, you're likely to think you're in store for a much different two hours than you wind up with, but such is the fun in watching.

Geirharðsdóttir does a wonderful job at both sides of her character, as well as the role of her sister Asa (in a more limited but equally impacting part). She is smart and fierce, but no less grounded and caring. When she learns that an old adoption application has finally been accepted and she will be taking in a Ukranian orphan, she must plan one final strike before her life makes a sudden turn in a different direction, and she will enlist whatever helpers she has earned along the way.

Benedikt Erlingsson has directed a gem here. The photography of the Icelandic landscapes is strikingly breathtaking at times, as desolate as we expect but less harsh. He does well to frame Halla against miles of the lush green she wants to see protected from industrial interests, always respecting her purpose and giving us a window into her mind, even if she is far from the camera. He inserts a small band that breaks the fourth wall in nearly every scene, as the music in the background will give way to their presence, playing it in real time. It is a strange choice that produces a lot of smiles and adds some great levity to otherwise heavy situations and gives the film a lot of personality.

I know plenty of people who don't like watching subtitled movies or who would be turned off by my description of the plot, but man I hope this finds an audience because it is an absolute treat with a lot to say and confidence in how to say it.

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