In his feature debut "Heartstone," Icelandic writer-director Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson takes the long way around to tell the small-scale story of the friendship between two pre-teen boys. Yet, despite its need for serious narrative compression, this remains an emotionally authentic, often poignant look at growing up and growing aware.
Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blaer Hinriksson), buddies in a small coastal fishing village, occupy their summer with fraught encounters with nature, roughhousing, a bit of property destruction and some tentative flirting with female friends Beth (Diljá Valsdóttir) and Hanna (Katla Njálsdóttir).
The boys must also deal with their unsettled home lives: Thor has a restless single mother and two intrusive older sisters, while Christian's volatile, homophobic father and beleaguered mom are on the verge of a split.
At the heart of the Thor-Christian dynamic, however, is their burgeoning sexuality as Thor slowly pairs off with the assertive Beth and Christian warily tests his physical attraction to Thor, whose response to Christian's veiled attention is to "stop being so weird."
This well-performed, atmospheric film (the Icelandic scenery proves its own memorable character) gains a stirring head of steam in its third act as a dire action has unexpectedly healing, credibly affecting consequences.
In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills