Review

'Metalhead' just scratches the surface of comfort and catharsis

Writer-producer Ragnar Bragason renders 'Metalhead' story only on a superficial level, such as wardrobe change

In bleak 1980s rural Svarthamar, Iceland, where the townsfolk seem perpetually expressionless, a tractor accident claims the life of the young Baldur (Oskar Logi Agustsson) and sucks the life out of his nuclear family. His 12-year-old sister, Hera (Dilja Valsdottir), immediately makes a bonfire out of her own possessions, arrogates Baldur's hand-me-down T-shirts, electric guitar and musical taste and transforms into the titular "Metalhead."

Fast forward to the 1990s. Hera, now played by Thora Bjorg Helga, grows up to be a fractious deadbeat who can't hold down a job at the local abattoir yet won't head for the city to pursue her musical endeavors. She finds a kindred spirit in the newly arrived priest (Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson) with their shared love of metal, but she mentally projects the special bond to be something other than platonic — which viewers can foresee the first time they lay eyes on each other. The trajectory of Hera's musical prospects is similarly telegraphed in an earlier scene.

Writer-producer Ragnar Bragason renders the story only on a superficial level, developing Hera's character primarily through changes in wardrobe, hair and makeup. Without such artificial visual cues, the progressions of supporting characters — most notably, her mom (Halldora Geirharosdottir) and dad (Ingvar E. Sigurosson) — are noticeably remiss. How Hera finds solace and catharsis through metal is never satisfyingly elucidated.

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'Metalhead'

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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