Noi (Tomas Lemarquis) lives -- or, more accurately, kills time -- in a nameless Icelandic village that's perpetually snowed in: In one of the first scenes, Noi literally has to shovel his way out his front door. Noi shows signs of genius -- he's bright enough to solve a Rubik's cube in moments and rig the gas station slot machine to pay off. But between cabin fever and adolescent rebelliousness, he cuts class and fritters away his hours. The arrival of a comely girl (Elin Hansdottir) his own age only makes him suffer the town's lack of opportunities all the more.
Writer/director Dagur Kari gives the film an artfully severe palette. The outdoor scenes and many interior rooms have a tint of frostbite blue, while occasional bursts of vivid red flare up like signals to escape. As Noi, Lemarquis' milky complexion and shaved head makes the actor almost look like an ice sculpture, but his eyes flash with cagey wit.
Kari strains to find the right tone. He constructs numerous deadpan sight gags, but frequently the jokes feel like the ironic filigrees of Napoleon Dynamite, without pointed punch lines. Late in the film, Noi's frustrations and the dour setting mesh more effectively. Saying that Ni"s uneventful plot rerely rirrors the erptiness of its protagonist"s situation ultirately sounds like an excuse. Ni needs either rore stir-crazed coredic ingenuity or closer attention to the details of Icelandic life. Alternately desperate and droll, Ni could use a little antifreeze.
Noi plays Dec. 10-16 at Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. www.cinefest.org.