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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 20, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 34
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Patrik, Age 1.5 director Ella Lemhagen
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Patrik, Age 1.5 director Ella Lemhagen

by Gary M. Kramer - SGN Contributing Writer

The modest, feel-good film Patrik, Age 1.5 is yet another comedy-drama about Gay couples wanting the same thing: to be treated as straight people - and there is nothing wrong with that, right? Affectionate married Swedish couple Göran (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Sven (Torkel Petersson) move into a suburban community where all the houses on the street look the same. They arrange to adopt a child to complete the traditional happy family unit. Frustrated that their request is denied at first, their domestic harmony is further spoiled when Patrik (Thomas Ljungman), a 15-year-old with a criminal background and contempt for Queers, turns up as their assigned "son." Comedy ensues from this arrangement as Göran and Sven fight bureaucratic red tape from social services and the police. They also battle with the contentious Patrik and each other.

Thankfully, Patrik, Age 1.5 writer/director Ella Lemhagen also mines this admittedly contrived situation for poignancy and tenderness. Skarsgård's performance is quite affecting as he palpably bonds with Patrik. Eager to prove that not every Gay man registers for NAMBLA when presented with a cute male teenager, the film's characters combat discrimination with dignity. While the insistence on using AOR pop tunes on the soundtrack makes Patrik, Age 1.5 feel emotionally calculated and button-pushing, the messages still go down smoothly.

Lemhagen chatted with Seattle Gay News about her film and how she came to make this Queer family comedy.

Gary M. Kramer: What prompted you to adapt this play into a film?

Ella Lemhagen: I never heard or read the play - I accepted [the job] just from the pitch. I read the play and didn't like the play so much, so I used the pitch and wrote my own story/version. I like mistaken identity comedies where someone thinks one person will show up and another person does. And this is also a love story between three men - if you count the boy.

Kramer: The theme is of the main characters wanting to be like everyone else, with a suburban house and a family. Why does that resonate?

Lemhagen: It's more the idea Göran wants it, but Sven doesn't. Sven has the background of living this typical life - he has been married and has a child - and he left it. He met Göran and chose a different [Gay] life, but then he realized Göran is going after what Sven has left. Sven wants something completely different. He lives with a man now. I was interested in that conflict. Göran, is not conflicted about being Gay. He wants to live an ordinary life with kids and doesn't want to be special, so he's confused when people treat him like he's different [because he's Gay].

Kramer: The film is pretty family-friendly - not too edgy, sexy, or violent. Did you specifically want it to appeal to a broad audience?

Lemhagen: Yes. The producer's idea was to make it mainstream, and what I liked about that was not just telling a story about Gay people for Gay people, because that becomes a narrow audience. It was more telling a love story about a couple that wants to have a child and what happens when the wrong child appears. It's important that it's a Gay couple, but I wanted to tell it so everyone can relate to the family issues. Their struggles aren't specific to a Gay couple, more of people you can relate to.

Kramer: Much of the comedy comes from the bureaucratic red tape Göran and Sven go through with social services and the police. Are you showing how difficult Gay adoption is?

Lemhagen: Yes. I really checked the situation in Sweden before I made this film. I interviewed the first Swedish Gay couple that was accepted to legally adopt in 2003. But they are still waiting to adopt, except within a family that already exists. So it was based on that couple's story. It's upsetting in a way that it's legal, but not possible because of bureaucracy.

Kramer: How did you choose the actors for the film? Did you go for certain types - to break stereotypes, perhaps?

Lemhagen: I was thinking of this as a love story, and it's always difficult to cast a love story. You want good actors, and for them to be likeable. A couple is more difficult to find than nice actors. Torkel [Sven] and I worked before, and he's a slapstick actor and famous in Sweden. I was afraid he was too funny to play here. I wanted him to feel real, and his emotions can be related to. We discussed Gustaf as Göran, but I was almost sure he was too young [at] 26. So I took those two in by chance, and after a minute I was convinced they were in love. I know they are both straight, but I believed in it. It was more difficult to find a young kid for Patrik, but Thomas had a lot of energy and wanted to do it. But he was almost too charming. I liked him, but he was too cute. I was looking for a much more [dangerous child] with a criminal past. I tried to turn him down. I [stripped] his [voice] away and worked more on his expressions and body language than words and dialogue.

Kramer: Last question: What's with all the country music on the soundtrack?

Lemhagen: Maybe it was a Gay stereotype, but I wanted that music for Sven, who is macho. I started to think of him as a cowboy, with his shirts and boots. Originally I wanted only Dolly Parton, but then it was so expensive, I had to change to Tanya Tucker. Except I got "Here You Come Again," because Dolly didn't write it. We made our own recording, so it connected to Dolly.

© 2010 Gary M. Kramer

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