The film is about Ulrik, “the gentle man” who is released from prison after 12 years (for murdering his wife’s lover), and his journey to try to make it back into society. He surrounds himself with lowlifes, and so it’s hard to make much of his newfound freedom. Still, he manages to get a new shot at life… in his own weird way.
In the opening scene, we see Ulrik being released from prison, receiving a good-bye and good luck present from the prison guards. You understand already then that Ulrik is not a hard criminal. Walking out of the gates for the first time in 12 years, he doesn’t seem to know where to go. He ends up in a diner/bar where he is reunited with two old friends, Rune and Rolf. Rune helps Ulrik get a place to live and a job as a mechanic, but he has an agenda. He wants Ulrik to take revenge on the man who with his testimony put him in jail. And so, after work, Ulrik starts spying on the “snitch”.
Ulrik, being a man who has a hard time with saying no, finds himself being showered by women… his landlord brings him dinner in trade for sex, his ex-wife gives him what she thinks is a sympathy quickie, but most importantly; he goes into a relationship with the secretary at work; Merete. It begins with him saving her from her abusive husband, and then being asked over for dinner. Waking up after spending the night together, Merete says something like: “Isn’t it nice… when you think there’s nothing good left in your life, and you discover that there is after all?” This seems to give Ulrik a hope that his life can get a different outcome – a new beginning. He tells Rune he won’t go after revenge over the snitch, he tells his landlord he’s met another woman, and he seeks a relationship with his son, Geir, by showing up at his door with a present for his upcoming grandson.
Unfortunately, Ulriks happiness doesn’t last for long. The secretary finds out he’s been screwing his landlord witch leads to Ulrik losing not only her, but also his job and finally the son’s wife; Silje, doesn’t want Ulrik around because she was told about his past. This leads Ulrik to go back to old ways, and so he returns to Rune and Rolf saying he will commit the murder after all. Upon the night of the planned murder, Ulrik finds himself in doubt, and he decides to leave the past in the past. He goes to see his son, hoping to say that he is a changed man, but Geir is not home and Ulrik is sent away by the son’s wife… while their standing there, Siljes water breaks, and she is forced to accept help from Ulrik to deliver the baby. This is the real turning point for Ulrik. He is finally accepted as a part of his son’s family, and he turns away from the bad people in his life. Of course this couldn’t be done the ordinary way… Ulrik commits what is believed to be his last murder. He shoots Rune, in order to begin his new life without the danger of anyone coming in the way of his happiness.
Right from the start, you get sympathy for Ulrik, and you recognize that he is not really a bad person, but instead a person who does what he is told. After the showing, I heard a woman say: “This movie was really cute”… And that is exactly what it was. The way Hans Petter Moland portrays Ulrik is with great compassion, and you are completely drawn into the action that is filled with so much humor and humanity. It was a weird, yet amazing feeling to see a Norwegian film in an American theatre. Experiencing the audience’s convulsive laughter of a humor I thought only Scandinavians would get, was surprising to me. Reading reviews of the movie; I noticed this quote:
Although the characters speak Norwegian, A Somewhat Gentle Man should register as a specialty item wherever humor is appreciated. The film is so rich visually and aurally that it could be appreciated even if the dialogue were removed. Chaplin would have embraced it. (Howard Feinstein, 16 February 2010, Screendaily.com).
You can the trailer here: A Somewhat Gentle Man