59th BFI London Film Festival | Saturday 10th October: Pick of the Day – Virgin Mountain

The eponymous Virgin Mountain of this engagingly offbeat Icelandic film is Fúsi (Gunnar Jónsson), a morbidly obese fortysomething who works as an airport baggage handler and still lives at home with his suffocating mum.

Painfully shy, he’s teased and bullied at work by his colleagues, and his social life doesn’t extend much beyond re-enacting the World War Two battle of El Alamein with toy soldiers and eating the same solitary meal once a week at his local Thai restaurant.

His horizons slowly open up, however, after he reluctantly takes up a birthday gift of line dancing classes and meets the bubbly and attractive Sjöfn (Ilmur Kristjansdóttir). A tentative friendship begins, but the outwardly ebullient Sjöfn is weighed down by some hefty emotional baggage of her own, while Fúsi has more inner resources than he realises.

Writer-director Dagur Kári tells Fúsi’s bittersweet story with humour, warmth and sympathy while never once lapsing into sentimentality. Imagine what Hollywood would make of this man-child and give thanks for Kári’s restraint and for Jónsson’s affectingly nuanced performance in the lead.

Virgin Mountain screens at the ICA at 8.45pm tonight.

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