Oskar’s America

Film review

Olympia, Wash.

Synopsis: Oskar, a young boy in Norway, neglected by his alcoholic mother and bullied by his classmates, dreams of a holiday to the American prairies. Oskar’s mom leaves him for the summer with her stern father, who uses his grandson as his unpaid forest farm hand. Oskar soon bonds with the only potential playmate nearby, mentally challenged adult Levi, who is obsessed with his visually impaired pony. After Oskar catches his mother in a devastating lie, this unlikely pair plan to prepare an old “transatlantic rowing boat” for a voyage across the Atlantic to America.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I constructed a cardboard craft that we intended to launch us into orbit. We lived within shouting distance of the Manned Spacecraft Center in suburban Houston and each of our dad’s, including my Norwegian-born pappa, Ole, were NASA engineers. We, like all of our friends and schoolmates, revered the U.S. space program. For propulsion, my buddy’s old man suggested that we partially fill clear plastic gallon jugs with water and seal them to generate pressure within. Then we would install these “boosters” onto the back of our rudimentary rocket, twist off the caps, and blast off to the stars. Even though I was away on family vacation for launch day, upon return, my chum regrettably reported that the operation was not a success.

We were genuinely crushed. Because we genuinely believed.

Enter the Norwegian fantasy drama Oskar’s America. The titular character is a 10-year-old boy (Odin Eikre in a charmingly endearing performance), the son of Isabel (Marie Blokhus), a young single mother mired in substance abuse, grandson of grizzled grandpa, Helmer (Bjørn Sundquist), and enamored with the mystique of what he has come to believe America to be. That is, a land in which everybody is a cowboy, gloriously riding horses upon the vast, open prairie. Not unlike the naivete inherent in my Quixotic “co-astronaut’s” and my vision of conquering the vast expanse of the heavens in our homemade composition-board contraption.

Oskar is left to live with his grumpy gramps, an anti-social loner who is working on a mysterious project in the basement, while Isabel is away in America on a job for a couple of weeks.

Or so she tells him.

During this time, the youngster meets a man-child named Levi (a touching turn by the late Jørgen Langhelle), who resides with his only companion in life, a diminutive equine he has christened, natch, “Horsie.” When Oskar learns that his mother has lied to him about her whereabouts, his world is shattered. Determined more than ever now to begin anew in the United States, he and Levi hatch a plan to row across the Atlantic Ocean, just as one of Levi’s ancestors had done decades ago. When Isabel learns that Oskar has gone missing from her father’s home, she sets out on a frantic search to find her son. Having successfully evaded both local hostile punks and law enforcement, Oskar and Levi are just about to set sail when Isabel comes upon them at the beach.

Three lost souls have found each other.

What lies ahead for the trio is not at all certain.

Except this…

Wherever and whatever the journey, it is destined to be traveled forever as one.

Oskar’s America is available for rent and purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

This article originally appeared in the September 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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John Smistad

John Smistad is a published author of short stories, poems, essays, and movie reviews. He lives and loves with his family and cat in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He is the fiercely proud son of a native Norwegian dad. (He loves his mom, too.) You can follow him as on his blog at thequickflickcritic.blogspot.com.