The premise of “Northern Comfort” is about the only thing the film gets right. This dreadful comedy from director and co-writer Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson sounds so good on paper, but is poorly executed in every possible way. Perhaps it’s a result of the differences in European and American audiences, but the attempts at humor fall with a resounding thud, and what feels like something that’s supposed to be funny just isn’t.
An unconventional group of people from all walks of life are joined together by one common phobia: a crippling fear of flying. An uptight property dealer, a special forces veteran, a popular social media influencer, and their incompetent instructor are thrown together for the final graduation flight of their aerophobia course. The group is headed from London to Iceland but while on board, things don’t go as planned and they find themselves stuck in the land of fjords and glaciers. Trying to make the most of a horrendous ordeal, they find a hotel where they can wait it out. This turns into an even more disturbing adventure that nobody bargained for.
The film has a “Triangle of Sadness” vibe, but doesn’t even come close to being as successful in its attempts at satire or storytelling. The script has a terrific setup that could have (and should have) been a slam-dunk, but Sigurðsson blows the lead. So much more could have been done with the story, but he simply doesn’t take it far enough. The characters are extremely important to the narrative, yet they feel under-developed and paper thin. By the time the more shocking and outrageous parts of story come into play, they feel like desperate gimmicks rather than cohesive storytelling.
One thing the film gets right is portraying what it’s like to live with a severe fear of flying. As a person who has struggled with this phobia most of my life, I thought the script accurately depicts and offers an understanding of the effect this anxiety has on not only those who suffer with it, but our friends and family, too.
“Northern Comfort” likely would have worked far better if Sigurðsson had taken his film to much darker places. It’s a great idea, but just not eccentric enough.
By: Louisa Moore