Patrik, Age 1.5 (Regent Releasing, R)

It only goes to show you that bigotry has no respect for national boundaries.

Goran (Gustaf Skarsgard) and Sven (Torkel Petersson) are just about the nicest couple you could hope to meet. They live in a white picket-fence home in a small town in Sweden where Goran works as a physician and are overjoyed when they are approved to adopt a baby. Imagine their surprise when their new son, Patrik (Thomas Ljungman), turns up and he’s not 1.5 years old but 15. Worse, he’s a hostile, delinquent, homophobic teenager who is sure that Goran and Sven mean to molest him as soon as he falls asleep.
There are other complications. For one, Goran is much more interested in the adoption than is Sven, and the strain of dealing with Patrik tests a relationship which turns out to be shakier than it seemed at first glance. Sven has a history of substance abuse and violent behavior, both of which threaten to resurface. He also has an ex-wife and teenage daughter to deal with, the latter of whom is going through a goth phase. Sven and Goran’s neighbors don’t seem to realize that they’re supposed to be living in a liberal paradise because they are not at all welcoming to this new family, which only goes to show you that bigotry has no respect for national boundaries.
The most remarkable thing about Patrik, Age 1.5, the ninth film from Swedish director Ella Lemhagen, is how matter-of-factly it treats the gay relationship at the heart of the story. Goran and Sven have their troubles, but they’re not that different from what heterosexual couples work through all the time. The problems of dealing with a hostile teenager will also be familiar to many parents; you don’t have to be gay to feel like an outsider in a new community, and the sense of betrayal felt by Patrik will be familiar to many kids as well—he’s had a hard life and doesn’t feel like trusting any more strange adults, no matter how pleasant they seem to be.
Thanks to a smart script by Lemhagen (from a play by Michael Druker) and understated yet effective acting from the principals, Patrik, Age 1.5 turns out to be the rare film which actually deserves the label “heartwarming,” as it delivers a message about the strength of families and the power of individuals to change. The three principals are all very strong, but Skarsgard (you may be more familiar with his older brother Alexander, who plays Eric Northman on True Blood) is a real standout and the emotional heart of the film: he’s vulnerable yet determined and totally committed to being a good parent.
Patrik, Age 1.5 is getting a belated release in the United States (it came out in Sweden in 2008) after scooping up awards, including the Audience Award at the 2009 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, on the international festival circuit. If you missed it during QFest, you now have another chance and I recommend taking it: in fact, I defy you to watch this film and not warm to its generous spirit. | Sarah Boslaugh

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