It’s rare to see a movie that puts a smile on your face and keeps it there a half-hour after it’s over. Humble and humane, “Elling” tells the story of two men who meet in a psychiatric hospital where they share a room for two years. Both are scarred 40-somethings, but they gradually find the courage to share a low-income apartment in Oslo.
Once there, Elling (Per Christian Ellefsen) and Kjell Bjarne (Sven Nordin) must prove they can lead a “normal” life or face a return trip to the ward. Social worker Frank Åsli (Jorgen Langhelle) is hardly encouraging, checking in and calling constantly. Even the minor travails of daily life — ringing phone, shopping, eating in a bar — seem daunting. But the odd couple perseveres. They’re inseparable.
Kjell Bjarne has a gorilla’s stalwart energy; Elling is neurotic, fearful, and inclined toward poetry. Hand-in-hand they cross busy streets and meet the outside world head-on, befriending strangers and taking a memorable road trip in a 1958 Buick Century hardtop. Norwegian director Petter Naess addresses these personal oddities without the slighest trace of malice. It’s gratifying. In the end, we’re all a little crazy, aren’t we?