How do you say “Lifetime Television” in Swedish? The story told in “Patrik, Age 1.5” (“Patrik 1,5”), which debuted in last year’s Out on Film, is very familiar, but in most versions the principal couple is heterosexual. (“Breakfast with Scot” was a recent exception.)
Göran (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Sven (Torkel Petersson) are not hetero, and they’ve got the wedding rings to prove it. Oh, Sven was married to a woman once, and she brings their reluctant 16-year-old daughter around periodically to remind him.
The men have just moved into a colorful neighborhood that looks like something out of a fairy tale directed by Tim Burton. The neighbors are outwardly accepting at first, but soon their children are yelling taunts at the male couple and vandalizing their house.
To make their world — or at least Göran’s — complete, they’ve applied to adopt a baby. But even though they’ve been approved and decorated a nursery in anticipation, it seems no one will let them have a child.
At last they get good news: “Patrik, age 1.5” is on the way! Then they get bad news. There was “a small typographical error” in the letter, and Patrik, age 15, arrives on their doorstep. Not only is he ten times the age they expected, but he’s not happy with the situation: “I’m not living with homos!”
Göran and Sven don’t want a teenager, even a nice one, but especially not one who tries to call them pedophiles but can’t pronounce it. Not only is Patrik homophobic but he has a criminal record: theft, assault and carrying a concealed weapon.
‘Him or me’
Patrik is played by Thomas Ljungman, who looks like Macaulay Culkin when he was outgrowing the kid roles. He seems to be quite a good actor, though he’s more convincing when he warms up than in making us believe the men should be afraid of him.
You know the rest of the story. Only the details change, some for better and some for worse. Patrik arrives on Friday afternoon before a long weekend so the men are stuck with him until Tuesday. At first they fear having him in their house but Göran softens a bit because Patrik shares his love of gardening.
The strain is enough to crack the marriage along previously established fault lines. Sven, less domestic than Göran, goes out and gets drunk. When they learn on Tuesday that Patrik’s the only child available to them, it becomes a “him or me” situation and Sven leaves.
With him out of the picture the bond between Göran and Patrik strengthens and the boy begins acting like a typical teenager, only nicer. He hires out to the neighbors as a gardener and teaches their kids skateboarding. At last a new home is found for him and there’s a chance of Göran and Sven reuniting, but is it still “him or me”?
There’s some really sloppy writing in a couple of scenes because the formula requires additional obstacles to be overcome, but the anticipated ending is still a crowd-pleaser. Ella Lemhagen’s direction occasionally makes you wonder whether “Patrik, Age 1.5” is supposed to be a drama or comedy. Drama is the correct answer but she’s more concerned with warming our hearts than giving us serious cause to worry about the outcome.
You might say “Patrik, Age 1.5” is the antithesis of “The Kids Are All Right.” Not only is the central couple male, but parenthood is a new challenge for them and their homosexuality is something of an issue. Both films are worth seeing, but if you can only see one, “Kids” wins.
Top photo: Gustaf Skarsgård, Torkel Petersson and Tom Ljungman star in ‘Patrik, Age 1.5’ (By Tomas Michaelsson)