Review: A Mixed Bag (2019), by Helena Rakel

A Mixed Bag, the title of Hana Rakel’s short, might refer to a number of things, physically and metaphorically. It could be the bag of groceries its protagonist Fjóla (Thorun Magnea Magnúsdóttir) buys at the supermarket, a mixed bag of consumer goods in our consumerist world, or a mixes bag of emotions regarding the ever-changing and ever more diverse world. Sooner rather than later, Fjóla will have to reassess her world-view…

From early on it is clear that she is not exactly a pleasant person, she is dismissive towards the cashier at the supermarket and towards her neighbours. More to it, she harbours some racist sentiments like old people, brought up in a different type of world, sometimes do. It can be seen from the excuse she makes for not donating some change to a Red Cross volunteer for the children in war-torn Syria (“There are plenty hungry children in our country”), but it is evident once she has to face the new neighbours in her building: the always busy Nadine (Enid Mbabazi) and especially her grade school-age son Adam (Kristófer Frithur Birimumaso). Him, being a curious kid and doing what curious kids do, will put her beliefs to test…

The approach Hana Rakel opts for is something closely related to American indie quirky “dramedies”. It is obvious from the title credits sequence, rapidly edited by Ingibjörg Sara Saevarsdóttir, in which the names of the cast and crew are printed in vivid colour and set against a retro-inspired lively electronic score by Birgir Sigurjón Birgisson and Hjalti Ragnarsson. Rakel drives the overall tone of the film to a more serious direction, which is expected having the topic in mind, but still does not forget the much needed relaxation from time to time, which allows the actors playing the old lady and the kid to enjoy in their interplay.

However, the end result is ironically close to the title – a mixed bag. It surely is a competently done short film that channels the right thoughts and emotions, but in its scope, it looks more like a “compressed” feature-length film or a study for a future feature.


Original title: Bland í poka
Fiction
Country: Iceland
Language: Icelandic, English
Runtime: 18′ 31”
Directed by: Helena Rakel
Written by: Helena Rakel, Logi Sigursveinsson
Cast: Thorun Magnea Magnúsdóttir (Fjóla), Kristófer Frithur Birimumaso (Adam), Enid Mbabazi (Nadine)
Produced by: Anna Karen Eyólfsdóttir, Elfat Thór Sigurgeir Jónsson, Thórthur Helgi Guthjónsson
Assistant director: Eva Rós
Cinematography by: Thórthur Helgi Guthjónsson
Music by: Birgir Sigurjón Birgisson, Hjalti Ragnarsson
Production design: Dagný Harthardóttir
Editing by: Ingibjörg Sara Saevarsdóttir