Sparrows ★★★★

Ari (youthful Atli Oskar Fjalarsson, expresssively unemotive) is a Reykjavik teen-ager whose mother and step-father emigrated to Africa, sending the boy to live with his drunkard father (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson) in the small north-western Iceland backwater town that Ari originally grew up in. His life is mostly one of despair for the displacement...except for his supportive grandmother, the independence of a summer job at a local fishery, and Lara, once his childhood best friend, now girlfriend to a local bully. The film is just an ordinary coming-of-age story...but for the gorgeous scenery of the mountainous seaport village and Ari's stoic humanity when faced with some really terrible events that mar his life. It's rare to watch such a downer film that is ultimately edified by the actions of an unexpectedly heroic protagonist.