Ella Lemhagen’s award-winning Swedish comedy “Patrik, Age 1.5” is a crowd pleaser about a gay couple’s dream of adopting a child. Adapted from a play by Michael Druker, the story manages to mainstream this emerging issue (re-defining families in the 21st century) while providing a feel good context.
When attractive couple Göran and Sven moves into their new neighborhood, their liberal neighbors seem non-plussed to learn they are gay. Eager to fit in, they tell the neighbors, most of whom have young children, that they are planning to adopt a baby. Their bid for domestic bliss takes place in a perfect suburban enclave, filled with macho dads, empathetic housewives and a slew of little brats.
Göran, a sensitive young doctor, has replaced the local GP. Corporate, tattooed Sven, one drink away from a rage-aholic, has sworn off the bottle.
Sven has stayed friends with his ex-wife Eva (Annika Hallin), and struggles to keep communication lines open with his sullen Goth daughter Isabell (Amanda Davin), who’s resentful of Sven’s new marriage and embarrassed by her parent’s friendship.
Endearing Göran (Gustaf Skarsgård) Is the one who pressed to have a traditional family. Sven, who chaffed at family life the first time he was married, indulges Göran’s dream.
Alas, their Social worker Miss Svensson Marie Delleskog) informs them that gay couples will never be approved for international adoptions. “What about Swedish kids, or even Danish'” worries Göran, willing to settle.
Imagine their joy when they’re approved. As they wait for their infant Patrik, they transform his nursery; Friends and family bring baby gifts. But a typo on their application delivers 15 year old, homophobic Patrik, the survivor of a lifetime of foster homes. “They sent us the wrong Patrik. He could be anywhere,” frets Göran.
It’s a Friday, and both Patrik and the outraged couple want a quick resolution to their comedy of errors. A useless receptionist at Social Services tells them to come back on Tuesday. Confrontative Sven insists they go to the police, where they encounter officious Officer Bern and his ‘safety zone’. “If I get raped, It’s your fault,” threatens aggrieved Patrik.
The worried couple lock Patrik in his room and hide the knives, but five days gives Göran and Patrik time to bond. Patrik has a hard road; at home he’s called a delinquent. In the neighborhood he’s called a homo. “No one calls me a homo!” As Göran comforts the bristly, offended teen, his paternal skills emerge. It’s a wonderful moment.
Lemhagen’s comedy is filled with such moments: Göran’s body language in the police station; the couple’s diverse reaction to the Social worker’s pronouncement; Patrik’s growing concern about the couple he feared and now understands; and the progressive shedding of his hyper-vigilance replaced by a million watt smile.
Patrik has hidden gardening skills, Göran’s hobby, and starts working for the neighbors. He teaches skateboarding to kids. Resentful Isabell and Patrik bond, two angry kids who have plenty to talk about.
Patrik teaches Göran karate skills, to protect himself from the kind of homo-phobic violence he once practiced. As nurturing Göran warms to Patrik, Sven takes up drinking.
Social Services explains the typo. “You wouldn’t have been our first choice, if another family had been available” warns the agency, absolving them of their responsibility for Patrik. Now Göran worries that Patrik will be forced to go back to the group home. Sven walks out.
Eva consoles Göran. “Sven’s an idiot. You deserve better, me too. Do you think there’s someone else? He cheated on me for six months.” “Who with? asks Göran. ” You, you idiot.” When Eva describes Patrik as a “nice boy’, Göran kvells with pride.
Lemhagen leaves room for darker moments. The happy ended is not unexpected but a feeling for all her characters gives Lemhagen’s comedy a warm, memorable glow.