The Austin Chronicle

Under the Sun

Not rated, 118 min. Directed by Colin Nutley. Starring Johan Widerberg, Helena Bergström, Rolf Lassgard.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 29, 2002

Set in the mid-Fifties Danish countryside, Under the Sun is a sweet but slight story about the unlikely new love and friendship between two older-than-average movie characters. However, there's not a whole lot more than this to chew on here, so the movie's two-hour running time may seem, to some viewers, overindulgent and slow. Olof (Lassgard) is a lonely, 40-year-old farmer who places a personals ad for a housekeeper to tidy up his farmhouse, where he has lived alone since the death of his mother. If truth be told, Olof is also a sexual virgin and illiterate, so the mere act of placing the ad requires him to screw up his courage and ingenuity. To his surprise, the woman who answers his ad is the beautiful Ellen (Bergström, who is also the wife of director Colin Nutley). Olof can hardly believe his good fortune, although the viewers' concerns are already piqued by this curious pairing and are left to wonder why a tight-lipped city woman is so quick to agree to come live in this relatively primitive dump that has no indoor bathrooms or other conveniences. Also suspicious is Erik (Widerberg), a ducktailed Elvis wannabe who runs errands for Olof and finagles cash from the farmer to bet on the horses. Erik becomes smitten with the mysterious Ellen and reacts angrily when he realizes that Olof and Ellen's relationship has reached a new level. Under the Sun is at its best when it lingers over the awkwardness of first-time sex for the middle-aged virgin or when the camera lovingly kisses the voluptuous countryside. Yet it also presents us with such hackneyed scenes as the one in which Olof teaches the city girl how to milk a cow or he fondles the heirloom of his mother's wedding ring. The performances are likable and there's nothing really wrong with the story -- other than the fact that Nutley hardly has any story to tell.

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