Goteborg 2016: Sparrows

Icelandic cinema needed a teen drama – and Sparrows is the perfect fit. Following a city boy as he is forced to move to a remote village, Sparrows questions teen issues, sex, drugs and just how manly Icelanders are in this charming and inherently beautiful story.



  • Domestic Premiere: 2 October 2015
  • International Premieres:
    • Sweden: 31 January 2016 (Goteborg Film Festival)


Runar Runarsson wowed us with Volanco, and Sparrows follows a similar concept. 


Incredibly beautiful, well paced and an excellent story – Atli Oskar Fjalarsson is a charismatic and charming lead who makes you want to keep watching. 


Icelandic cinema is all the rage at the moment, and Sparrows is another example of why!


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Having seen Sparrows online well ahead of its premiere last October, it was exciting to be able to see the Icelandic coming of age story up on the big screen at Goteborg. Sparrows, like most Icelandic films, has had its fair share of international awards, and it’s easy to see why. Beautifully filmed and told, Sparrows is the teenage Icelandic drama we didn’t know we needed.

The story is simple enough: Ari is a sixteen year old Reykjavik city boy who is forced to move to the remote west when his mother moves to Africa*. Moving in with his father, Ari finds any excuse to stay out of the house: working in a fishery, wandering the village and hanging out with the small group of teens the town has to offer.

The first half of the film plays out like a conventional coming of age story – with our protagonist getting into fights, lusting over girls and getting up to mischief, all while he tries to figure out just who he is. It is only towards the second half of the film that Sparrows takes a rather dark turn: as the teen crowd parties it up, drugs and sex are introduced – both of which they suffer the consequences for. Whether or not these points were really needed is up to the audience, but the story is powerful enough to work without the graphic imagery.

Turning away from conventional teenage drama, Sparrows is a really interesting look into manhood. Ari is a city boy: tall, lean and wearing rather tidy clothing. He is part of the Reykjavik choir and with that has a beautiful and high pitched voice. Throughout the film we see him favour cuddling baby seals over hunting them, he squirms over the idea of drinking hard liquor, and he is less into sex than his male friends – though a shower scene may indicate he is interested in the body parts growing with manhood. Similarly, we have Ari’s distant father hunting, drinking, flirting with the local floozies and trying to prove that he is as ‘blokey’ as the Icelandic man gets. However, when he’s alone or with family he seems to love nothing more than commenting on dance competitions. So perhaps rather than showing the perils of teen life in Iceland, Runarsson is out to show what defines a man – as Ari’s act in the last scene proves his is more manly than most.

Overall, Sparrows is well told and incredibly beautiful. This may not be a film for everyone with its teenage dramas, but for fans of Icelandic cinema Sparrows is a must.

* side note: I’m not sure how believable I found it that a mother would up and leave to Africa when her son is just a couple years from being an adult?

We interviewed Runar Runarsson, and you can read that here: https://www.cinemascandinavia.com/symbolism-and-realism-in-runar-runarssons-sparrows/




CategoriesIceland Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.