For all intensive purposes, Baldvin Zophoníasson’s Jitters (Órói, 2010) seems like little more than an Icelandic interpretations of Channel 4’s Skins – a coming of age drama full of rambunctious adolescent misbehaviour. However, whilst easy to pigeon-hole as a piece of teenage cultural trash, if you give Zophoníasson’s nuanced film an opportunity you’ll discover a powerfully emotive and honest insight to the harrowing journey adolescence can be.
Upon returning home from a summer language school in Manchester, Gabriel (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson) discovers not much has changed in his sleepy hometown, however, the same could not be said for this newly liberated young man who now carries a heavy secret around his neck. It weighs on his conscious whilst become infuriatingly noticeable to his over controlling mother – an overbearingly smothering matriarch who it appears is prepared to go to great and often embarrassing lengths to reveal the origins of her son’s new found fondness for solitude and privacy.
Throughout the remains of the summer holidays – a time normally riddled with adventures of youthful hedonism – Gabriel finds himself encountering a wide range of trials and tribulations, from the seemingly trivial relationship troubles of his best friend to an event which will not only devastate his circle of close friends but the entire community.
Comparisons with televised versions of teenage popular culture are unavoidable as Jitters is clearly made from the same mould. There is little doubt that Jitters has unashamedly fashioned itself on the emotional disarray that accompanies this perplexing quest for identity amongst the changing tide of pubescent insecurities however, Zophoníasson’s film somehow manages to rise above its small screen template to become very much an assured piece of cinema. This ascent to cinematic acceptance is partly thanks to the assured performance of Fjalarsson who perfectly expresses his characters confused and troubled emotional state with easy whilst seemingly perfectly comfortable with the emotionally weighted subject matter of his role.
The movingly cinematic strings of Olauf Arnald’s score pulsates through the film’s more personal moments with an energy that fittingly amplifies the emotion on screen to the same heightened degree of importance that the characters appear to be feeling. This fact, combined with some impressively natural turns by a youthful cast (who at times put their more established onset colleagues to shame) and you have a highly impassioned film, that whilst in no way without its teething problems, Jitters perfectly captures the hysteria which surrounds this transition into adulthood.