Two half-brothers, Patrick and Tim, arrive at a forest and make their way through the woods, arriving at a secluded cabin.
It’s a familiar place for them, though not without its difficult memories: it was where they spent time with their father, who recently passed away.
Now both have a chance to say goodbye as well as reconnect with one another, though there’s considerable strain between them. But for one brother, it’s difficult to stop dwelling on negative memories, leading to a weekend that’s anything but introspective or peaceful.
Writer-director Jon Olav Stokke’s short drama is a meditation of the sometimes fractious nature of family bonds, as well as the nature of grief, memory and relationships.
Central to its strengths as a film is its remote, secluded mountain location, which exerts a muted, shadowy pull both on the characters and the audience — and which provides both compelling obstacles to the plot and a powerful metaphor for coming to grips with the powerful and unresolved feelings that grief and death often bring to the fore.
As a result, the look and feel of the film are both moody and beautiful, highlighted with carefully crafted camerawork and often stunning shots of the setting. Watching the brothers navigate an ascent through fog and mist speaks to their state of mind as it does to the atmospheric nature in Norway. The film also possesses a subtle yet powerful sound design and score as well that forms a kind of aural fog, enveloping the story with a slow yet roiling emotion at times, as well as a beauty that reflects the melancholic images of the film.
The storytelling, too, leans on a minimal but powerful mix of elements to drive interest. The pacing of the editing is on the quieter, slower side at first, and takes its time to set up the situation and its background. But the time and space allow us to get to know both brothers and see the frayed yet loyal bond between them.
The dialogue is also sparse yet highly specific to each character, brought to life by actors Espen Sandvik and Anders Weger, who balance many levels of history, feeling and want in skilled, subtle performances. They’re highly believable at brothers who know each other well, but are at odds with one another, both by temperament and past events. As their conflict they’re avoiding becomes more overt, the rift not only becomes a chance for them to create a unique catharsis — though not the one they expected — and come to terms with their unresolved grief.
“Our Father’s Cabin” takes its cues from the laconic nature of its characters, as well as the isolated, quiet yet intense mountains of the setting, and both factors shape the storytelling and visuals. It is a film that viewers must take on their own terms, but they will be rewarded with an emotional intimacy and honesty that is authentic, hard-won and quietly moving.
For a drama about grief, there are no tears, heartwarming speeches or bold declarations. Instead, there is a letting go of the pain of the past — and clearing some space for movement and connection in the future, free of crippling anger and bitterness.