Josh Bell

Inspired by an Icelandic legend, The Seagull's Laughter is one of those foreign films that undoubtedly loses something in the translation. For an English-speaking audience, the movie is fitfully entertaining, mostly thanks to Ugla Egilsdóttir's performance as Agga, a precocious and intriguing 11-year-old girl whose coming-of-age is tied to the central character, the mysterious femme fatale Freya (Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir).

At the film's opening, Freya returns to her small, '50s Icelandic town after spending years in America, married to a serviceman who has died a strange death. With her Rita Hayworth good looks and Hollywood fashion sense, Freya soon captivates the town, but her cousin Agga isn't sure she is to be trusted. When Freya marries an upper-class engineer (Heino Ferch), even more suspicious things start to happen around her.

Writer-director Ágúst Gudmundsson doesn't seem to know whether his film is a light comedy or serious examination of small-town values, so the tone is uneven throughout. While Freya remains enigmatic as a central character, Agga's development into a young woman is richly portrayed, and as long as Egilsdóttir is on screen, the film is a small but satisfying delight.

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