The Norwegian film, Gutta Boys (also known as Boys Will Be Boys and Poikien jutut), was released in 2006 in the form of a TV mini series. The DVD on which this review is based was released in the same year and features two disks that include seven episodes with a total running time of 175 minutes.
The series become popular after its nomination for the Emmy award and has since achieved popularity all over the world as one of the best coming of age series ever made for TV. Regular readers of this blog know of my affinity towards Scandinavian films – full features such as Da jeg traff Jesus… med sprettert , Nachttocht and En som Hodder and short films such as Min far er bokser , Iver , Verde andmy personal favoriteBenny’s Gym. In fact, the storyline of Gutta Boys is similar to the one in Benny’s Gym – as the issues such as action, friendship, confusion, loyalty and betrayal are common for both films.
The main protagonists of Gutta Boys are four twelve year old boys: Arne, Bønna (Bjørn Tore), Petter and Eivind, who are exploring their own boundaries and the ones of the world, being in that period of life which is often associated with the transition between childhood and adolescence. They are friends – and share similar interests – but naturally each of them has a unique personality and character which develops throughout the story.
Arne is a gentle boy who is back in school, and is getting reacquainted with friends, after a prolonged illness. He is tired of being sick and of making his parents concerned about him. His big goal is to catch up with what he believes he has missed. His best friend, Bønna, is determined to help him fulfill the three challenges that Arne sets for himself in a list titled “When I Get Better “. Those tasks include 1) archery – firing a real arrow with a bow into the sky and then testing their courage by not moving, risking that the arrow might hit them when it begins its descent to the ground; 2) - jumping from a huge rock into the frigid water of a lake and 3) – playing strip-poker .
Admittedly, most of the tasks Arne set for himself are similar to the ones my friends and I had when we were twelve ourselves. Only our tests of bravery involved swimming towards an island in the lake (well aware that some of us barely managed to keep ourselves on the surface), jumping from high rocks into the sea (on those occasions sometimes we jumped all together determined that if something happened it would happen to all, and if not we would all be heroes), crossing a frozen lake …etc. I am sure that many of you recall similar moments from your own childhood as that is one of the virtues of the coming of age stories in books and cinema – that they serve to make those memories return. And if the film is good – as good as Gutta Boys is – we are ready to re-live our own adventures as we watch the scenes on the screen.
Back to the film…
While the friendship between Arne and Bønna is the focus of the film, the other members of their gang, Petter and Eivind, play an important role as well. They all hang around, but Eivind’s parents are overprotective and Peter’s father is a policeman. These facts often exclude them from the wildest activities of the gang, especially the ones resulting from the plans of Bønna – who has problems with authority ( it reminds me of a friend of mine who is a look-alike of Bønna who even got in trouble once ,and me, every time I went along with him).
I won’t go into much more detail of the film’s plot so you can fully enjoy its twists and the mischief and adventures of the boys. However, I would mention that the direction was done exceptionally well and the performance of the cast was good on all levels. The cinematography of Gutta Boys is similar to the one in the modern Scandinavian films, featuring bright colours and frequent use of camera closeups on the characters’ faces to better convey their emotions to the viewer. I am also fond of the soundtrack of the series recorded by Fatter’n – who is a Norwegian film composer, rapper, hip hop-artist and producer. His hip hop vibes really fit well with the Gutta Boys series.
By the end of the film, you will inevitably associate with one of the main actors – Arne or Bønna. I associated with Arne (even if he seems a bit spoiled by his parents – despite his rebellion against that) as sometimes it seems that I need an extra push or encouragement to go ahead and do something crazy or wild. Some of you may dislike the character of Bønna because of his selfishness at times. But if you keep in mind all he has had to go through, with his mother absent and his feeling the need to project the image of being a tough and wild guy (even though he is no less sensitive than Arne), then I think you would better understand the motivation behind his ideas and actions. The film is bound to make you think about the different methods of parenting and the impact they have on children: the ever busy dad, the overprotective one, the intrusive one –one never knows what’s better. As for myself, I have very liberal parents and they have always allowed me to do what I wanted, even if I made the wrong decisions at times (as they allowed me to learn from my mistakes). Overall, this mini series can give you more food for thought than you might, at first, imagine.
I am sure that fans of the coming of age genre will greatly enjoy Gutta Boys and I have no hesitation in highly recommending it.
This review would not have been possible without the valuable support of CVMC who provided the the DVD of Gutta Boys
All images used are property of Monster Film AS