Directed by Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken
Starring Iben Akerlie, Henrik Mestad, Benjamin Helstad, Reidar Sørensen, Ingar Helge Gimle, Inga Ibsdotter Lilleaas
An endearing and quirky road-movie with a warm, inviting feeling and the right amount of silliness, Going West is the latest film from Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken, who is on a roll with film releases, in the last twelve months releasing Returning Home, Cave and Late Summer. Going West is much softer in tone than his other movies, and it shows he is able to work across all genres and emotions. Following Kasper and his father, Georg, on a road-trip across beautiful Norway to enter Kasper’s late mother’s last quilt into the national championships, Going West is just a fun adventure to be on.
Kasper is a young music teacher who loses his job at a primary school due to his irresponsible drinking habits. While being fired (and flirting with the principal firing him), Kasper receives a call from his drunken father Georg, who finds himself in a similarly sorrowful situation; Georg has been unable to leave his apartment since his wife Irene passed away eight months ago. Since then, Kasper and his father have struggled to connect, Kasper letting himself go while seemingly taking care of his father. When Kasper pays his father a visit, he finds that Georg has accepted an invitation, addressed to Irene, to partake in an annual quilting competition that takes place on an island on the west coast of Norway. Flashback scenes educate us that Kasper promised his mother he’d have fun with his father after her death, and with the recent firing Kasper finds it fitting to agree to the adventure, and so the two ‘go west’.
Here the plot turns into a conventional road movie with enough quirks to make the film stand on its own. Kasper and Georg hit the road on a rusty motorcycle and sidecar, with Georg openly embracing his long-concealed practice of cross-dressing. Beautifully shot flashbacks show Georg and Irene dancing, Georg embracing his cross-dressing, a scene so wonderful and full of love that also indicates this isn’t just something he started after Irene’s death; it’s just who he is. For much of the movie, the father and son encounter strange scenarios, some a little ‘out there’ and some perfectly eccentric, such as a scene with a macho police officer and the night they spend at one of Georg old girlfriends farm. As the two are simply driving to a quilt championship, the stakes are never high and the consequences are minimal, but the journey the father and son have is just so fun to watch that some harder-to-believe scenes don’t lose track of the overall story.
A true standout here is Ingar Helge Gimle as Georg. He never allows the character to become over-the-top, something that could be so easy. It’s never fully explained by Georg crossdresses, Kasper not really knowing himself, but that’s just who Georg is and no one seems to mind. It’s actually very refreshing to see a character like this in film and not have it be a major element of the story or something that incurs several emotional scenes explain why. It’s just Georg’s character and it’s fantastic. Kasper is also an excellent contrast to his father, and with the backdrop of alluring Norway and the ‘out there’ characters they meet along the way, it’s just a joy to watch.
Going West is a traditional road movie in structure, but the way it handles the characters gives it space to breathe. It’s playful, it’s endearing, and at eighty-six minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s not about the journey, it’s about who you experience it with.