Winter Brothers ★★★

In some ways this idiosyncratic debut feature feels like a group of cobbled together short films, with many scenes acting as self-contained gags. Overall, though, it marks the emergence of an inventive talent, presenting an aloof comic vision that’s alternatively channeling Yorgos Lanthimos and Napoleon Dynamite. Set at an isolated limestone mine, the film largely tracks the hijinks of Emil, an oddball stuck in a job that gives him no creative outlet. All work and no play results in Emil engaging in a series of magic tricks, dick jokes, and halfhearted macho fantasies, at least before a mishap involving a bad batch of hooch prompts a headlong slide into what might be madness. From here, the film gets more ominous in tone, even as Emil skulks around his former workplace looking like some depraved Buster Keaton thanks to his lime-caked face, begging the question of how seriously viewers are supposed to be taking this all. Ultimately, Winter Brothers uses Emil’s plight as a commentary on masculinity’s normalizing tendencies, but Pálmason’s approach is so scattershot and playful that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is being claimed.

54/100