In the slapstick tradition, films about People In Their Late 20s-to-Mid 30s Who Can’t Get Their Shit Together portray maladjusted yet endearing fuck-ups in crises, struggling to level up to the “desert of the real.” They meander through a miasma of hangovers, vomit on furniture, fights with strangers (or non-strangers), living with/accepting handouts from parents, disaffectedness, full-frontal nudity, public urination, one-night stands, professional ineptitude, and confrontational conversation. Martin Lund’s The Almost Man is an example of a film that gleefully hinges on these tropes; however, its subject matter ultimately takes the wind out of any remotely triumphant moments or introspective notes.
Henrik (Henrik Rafalesen) exists in the archetypal prolonged adolescence. He lives in an infuriatingly well-furnished apartment (resplendent with party guests and iTunes playlists) with his girlfriend Tone (Janne Heltberg Haarseth), who willingly engages (and even provokes) his eyebrow-raising fraternity-style humor. Henrik is unwilling to abandon his overindulgence, substance abuse, and overall “harmless” irreverence, which doesn’t sit well with Tone, and an inevitable downward spiral toward existential decay ensues. As with other similar films, Tone (as a female) is lazily typecast as the latently antagonistic part of the equation — the fly in the ointment of Henrik’s “happy-go-lucky” immaturity. The casual (and not-so-casual) misogyny of Henrik’s attitude toward Tone (in his language and conduct) is, unfortunately, a behavior that is accurately reflected in society.
The film manages to assert itself in certain capacities. Henrik and Tone’s clumsy reality is choreographed well by Lund; environments and scenarios weave themselves in and out of unequivocally uncomfortable, colorfully disgusting tableaux. Henrik’s social deviance extends itself through various arenas, from audible and crass jokes directed toward Tone at a grocery store, to his leaving a dinner party to break into a car and urinate into a copy of Peter Pan (hands down, the film’s most memorable moment), to abandoning his own party to attend another, in which he fights and makes out with (separate) strangers. When Tone chastises him for “fighting and making out,” he “gaslights” her feelings as overreaction by humorizing his behavior.
Rafaelsen’s and Haarseth’s respective performances interact with fluidity, plausibly illustrating that a relationship’s deterioration doesn’t happen overnight. They are versatile enough to overcome the film’s unoriginal aspects (for example, Tone’s “female” persistence as a catalyst). The lyrically cheeky affection between Henrik and Tone retreats gradually and stealthily before morphing into Overt Conflict And Disdain. However, when the trajectory reaches this point, Tone declares “I like you better when you talk than when you point,” abruptly ending their Overt Conflict And Disdain. Commence Henrik’s precious resignation to a banjo-xylophone saccharine jangle, effectively resolving the struggle in a tidy manner for those with low-attention spans.
There isn’t much room for excitement or emotional involvement in The Almost Man and others of its ilk. A plot line that tethers itself to a “quirky algorithm” is suffocated by its lack of choices that could have otherwise allowed the film greater autonomy. The characters develop in a perfunctory fashion; if Henrik and Tone were given broader scope and weren’t ascribed to such a “timeline,” the actors would have been capable enough to have facilitated more versatility. Instead, The Almost Man is lightheartedly painful and low-maintenance, flourishing in its few patently awkward moments (for those intrigued by children’s books as interfaces for urination) and fantastic Scandinavian interior design (for those who dream of leveling up from IKEA). Lund might’ve been better suited taking his cues from Louis CK than Judd Apatow, and perhaps the hidden layers of intrinsic bleakness could’ve asserted themselves more disarmingly in a less-exhausted, less idiosyncratically predictable fashion.