Woman At War review

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Now on DVD in the UK is Woman At War – and here’s our review.

Certificate: TBC
Director: Benedikit Erlingsson
Cast: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada, Jörundur Ragnarsson
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Charlotte Harrison

There are few words as loaded as ‘quirky’. The decision to self-describe in such a way has a habit of resulting in termination of a conversation. And yet, when describing Woman At War, quirky is the perfect adjective to describe it – in a good way.

For roughly 100 minutes, we get to follow Halla (Geirharðsdóttir), a 40-something woman who epitomises the notion of ‘pillar of the community’. She’s a choirmaster who also happens to be a fiercely determined environmental activist, spending her spare time covertly sabotaging the local aluminium industry. But when a long-held dream of becoming a mother looks to be coming true, she finds herself conflicted over her vigilante activities. What follows is a family drama with moments of comedy, and moments as tense as a proper thriller.

Halla is an immensely likeable character, as endearing as she is determined. We root for her from the outset. We may not know everything about her, but we know what matters. That’s vital when it comes to communicating the film’s message. The only way to make a topic as big, nebulous and abstract as climate change is to root it in the human. It can be hard to fear a monster if it is so large we cannot comprehend it.

There’s an avoidance of fear-mongering or lecturing. Instead, we focus on one person and one place, a specific story from which we can determine a universality of meaning. The conflict in the film arises from Halla being torn between her motivations. A new daughter is a reason to stop the risk, as being caught by the authorities seems a certainty, whilst also being the perfect reason to keep going – a reason to ensure the world her daughter grows up in is as healthy as possible. All of this plays out in a manner not too dissimilar from a fable, with a tone founded in drama yet embellished with comedy. This is epitomised by the on-screen presence of the musicians who soundtrack proceedings, acting as a Greek chorus during the good, the bad and the bits in-between.

A lightly told tale yet packed full of weight, it’s a climate change crowdpleaser told with real heart, warmth and pathos.

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