Patrik, Age 1.5
Living on the edge of comic situations
On the surface, “Patrik, Age 1.5,’’ from Sweden, is basic situation comedy. A gay married couple wants to adopt a toddler. They wind up with a homophobic teenager. It’s not a sitcom, but the movie has a few unexpected developments. Göran (Gustaf Skarsgard) has always wanted a child to go with his suburban home. But Sven (Torkel Petersson) was heterosexually married and already has an adolescent daughter who appears to hate him. He’s happy to go through with the adoption because it’s what his husband wants.
Yet when a bureaucratic mix-up leaves them with a moody 15-year-old (Thomas Ljungman) instead of an 18-month-old, Sven starts to crack. He resumes drinking and smoking. He’s angry. The cute little domestic comedy gains a slightly rough edge — maybe Sven isn’t meant to be a father or a husband.
And yet the movie is fundamentally what it promises. The frowns are turned upside down, and the bigots get their happy comeuppance. The teenaged Patrik, as it happens, is no slacker. He has a green thumb that he uses on the neighbors’ lawns and gardens. He and Göran actually develop a friendship that feels true. But aside from Sven’s breakdown and Göran’s refreshingly honest response to it, the movie delivers only comforts, platitudes, and a good soundtrack (Carla Thomas, Three Dog Night, America). You can do better this summer with gay-parent-crisis plots: “The Kids Are All Right’’ cuts the same corners as this movie, it just uses a better knife.
The hard decision about whether Patrik should stay turns out to be surprisingly easy and, against the movie’s better instincts, so does the fate of Göran and Sven’s marriage. The director, Ella Lemhagen, means well and handles her movie with smoothness and confidence. She really likes these people — maybe too much. For instance, Göran and Sven never turn off the baby video monitor they set up in their bedroom. Never. So even after Patrik has proven to be a model citizen, his sleeping habits can still be observed from across the hall. It’s creepier than Lemhagen appears to know.