There’s nothing gentle about this movie

“A Somewhat Gentle Man,” directed by Hans Petter Moland, follows the post-prison life of Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgard), a man who spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his wife’s lover.

“A Somewhat Gentle Man,” directed by Hans Petter Moland, follows the post-prison life of Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgard), a man who spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his wife’s lover.

Upon release, Ulrik is awaited by friends Jenson and Rolf, who offer him a place to stay with Karen Margrethe, Jenson’s cold yet dependent sister. Jenson, who has been sending Ulrik’s family money during the imprisonment, urges Ulrik to seek revenge on the man who testified against him. Jenson supplies a weapon and a car for the reluctant Ulrik. After rejecting Jenson’s suggestion, Ulrik is ostracized from his only friends. He attempts reconciliation with his son and ex-wife, who acknowledge him but cannot accept him.

The only person who fills him with any happiness is the beautiful secretary Merete. However, when things with Merete fall apart by way of fate, Ulrik finds himself confined again in a prison of loneliness. As he contemplates the value of this useless existence, Ulrik finds himself at the scene of a most unlikely blessing.

The film’s expressive cinematic techniques captivate audiences into the somber flavor of Ulrik’s life. A blue filter sets the stage for the dismal plot, emphasizing Ulrik’s constant challenges. The opening frame following his release exudes the coldness of freedom and the closed frames of his new living quarters and interactions with old friends depict the illusionary nature of this freedom as an ultimately continuing imprisonment. The slow pace, although perhaps unbearable for some, allows the audience to appreciate the lack of revolution brought upon by liberation. As Ulrik falls into a network of various complex and intertwining social relationships, the plot drastically thickens, leaving viewers questioning whether he will ever find a true niche in the free world.

The Norwegian film won the award for best actor at Fantastic Fest and the Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival. It is no surprise; Skarsgard is remarkable. Ulrik’s character is fully embraced as the title “somewhat gentle man,” who creates disparity in the binary view of good versus evil. Likewise, the rest of the characters each deliver unique and sincere personalities without requiring excessive screen time. Although the film is relatively long, it manages to introduce many intricate characters while continuing the unraveling of a slow but twisted plot.

The film raises serious questions about second chances, both within the prison system and in personal life. Moland’s suggestions on the difficulty of transition shed sympathy onto all who have paid their dues. No amount of charitable service or personal redemption can completely erase some past mistakes. Sensitive to the suffering of prisoners, “A Somewhat Gentle Man” opens a discussion of goodness, proposing that circumstance can shatter the commonly thought objective moral system.

“A Somewhat Gentle Man” is wonderful beyond words. The plot weaves slowly but profoundly between the complex, intertwining experiences of a basket of unique, sincere characters. Skarsgard’s magnificent performance allows Ulrik to consume viewers in a striking moral inquiry about redemption, forgiveness and karma. Combining a compelling plot with skilled actors, suggestive cinematography and moral implications, “A Somewhat Gentle Man” is worth seeing by all means. ?