Life beats us all down eventually. Or, if we’re lucky, it numbs us from caring about the chaos that surrounds us. This is only too true for the inhabitants of three apartments within Gísli Darri Halldórsson‘s short film Já-Fólkið [Yes-People]. Whether it’s the senior couple at a breakfast table daring each other to blink during an impromptu “who’s most annoying” contest or a cheery mother and her morose son getting through teaching clarinet to a novice and staying awake at school respectively or a frustrated middle-aged pair who’ve turned to vices (food and alcohol) in a bid to ignore each other, these people provide us a funny, absurd, and all-too relatable look into the odd ways in which we cope with the monotony of suburban life.
The result is a cutely rendered lark that will have you wincing at the familiarity as much as crying with laughter. There are the small victories like shoveling the sidewalk or getting a student to improve just slightly enough that you don’t want to rip your hair out or accidentally scream at them for something that isn’t their fault. There’s finding a hidden cookie in your desk drawer to satiate a grumbling stomach or ignoring self-control to dig out that flight-size bottle of booze under the sink to escape the dreariness of another afternoon that proves how meaningless calendars are when you have nothing to differentiate today from tomorrow. And who hasn’t lived somewhere with thin enough walls to find dinner serenaded by screams of ecstasy next door?
Its appeal is therefore Halldórsson’s ability to find humor in the mundane. By using expressions, grunts, and pure intonation in lieu of dialogue, he’s distilled his characters’ experiences to their most succinct (and enjoyable) level of understanding. Why is the teenager tired in school? Because he plays videogames all night. Why does his mother incessantly hum? Because her students can’t stop butchering the music she teaches. Whether the shake of an addict or the pointed inhalation of a breath—everything we see and hear exists as a form of communication right down to the body type of these residents serving as comparison points to their past selves (via photographs) and each other. This is life’s imperfectly cherished bliss and unavoidably low-stakes struggles in their full glory.