Set in a breathtakingly beautiful Icelandic fjord, Whale Valley (original title: Hvalfjörður) is a short film that teaches its viewers to not judge a film by its title. Without knowing the synopsis of the film, one may expect the storyline to be an upbeat, informative story about whales (the film is set in Hvalfjörður or ‘whale fjord’). But Whale Valley is anything but that. It is a raw, gripping short film that chronicles the journey of two brothers and their relationship, which is far from perfect, but shows that a brotherly bond will almost always get one through the worst of times.
With a run time of just 15 minutes, Whale Valley, directed by Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, manages to effectively give a realistic look into the lives of Ívar and his older brother Arnar. The film’s pace is perfect, despite its short run time, and scenes do not feel rushed nor do they drag on. There is minimal speaking, which adds to the mood of the film and lines that are said are well thought out and each play an important role in the storyline.
While Whale Valley demonstrates brotherly love, it is not a happy film. The setting is dreary and dark and I instantly realized I was not in for a happy 15 minutes. Less than one minute into the film, viewers are introduced to Arnar by showing his suicide attempt. This scene sets the tone of what is yet to come and the struggle the two brothers face to conceal their unhappiness to their family, yet remain loyal to one another through the difficult times.
Whale Valley has been screened at many prestigious film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival where it received a special mention, the Sydney Film Festival, the Helsinki Film Festival and many others. The film won Best Icelandic Short and Best Sound in an Icelandic Short Film at the Reykjavik International Film Festival and continues to be premiered at festivals around the world.
I would recommend Whale Valley to those who appreciate a finer cinematic experience. The camerawork and acting is believable, and I felt like I was in the moment with Ívar and Arnar. However, if you are looking for a short film that will leave you feeling happy, I would not recommend this film. The suicide attempts were difficult to watch and if a viewer was not prepared for such a realistic depiction of suicide, this could be traumatic. It is evident why Whale Valley has won so many awards, but for the average viewer, I do not think it would be a go-to film of choice.
Whale Valley is produced by FRÆ films & Fourhands film. Click here for more information.