The camera’s wide-angle focus on the pale, squared-off, close-cropped, animalistic beauty of the head of unelaborately expressive lead actor Hubert Milkowski makes me wish the movie and the world had more characters like Robert than like Ivar, a slightly queeny and coddled yet attractive scold who does drag and becomes Robert’s love interest. Robert at least faces his challenges, trying to be a better version of himself, focusing so hard on the adjuvant tasks that he rarely blinks or smiles, and it’s that focus (and that head) that’s likely to make us remember anything that happens in this sincere but narratively unstructured movie about a young, closeted Polish immigrant moving on up in a fish factory in Norway.
The film also heavily emphasizes the primacy and elusiveness of satisfying, ethical work, something we rarely see portrayed in American gay movies?the characters in those seem to be escaping from work almost all the time, unless they’re creatives or hustlers, in which case their activities never seem like work at all, or else register as more ways to show how gay they are. (I probably don’t even have to mention that gay working immigrants don’t feature much in American movies either, except maybe in documentaries about their suffering. You’ll have to watch European features or shorts, or to find them.) The Norwegian landscape doesn’t get as much attention in this movie as I would have liked, although the fish factory’s clinical whites and blues do, not like we get in Futuro Beach, or even Happy Together, but for sure I felt the cold and the wind, and not just from the weather. When Robert’s mien finally breaks as he’s confessing to Ivar the cost comparisons between the closet and open romance, we can hear the ice crack. If we’ve been listening.