Ari is a familiar figure, and not merely because the actor playing him – Atli Oskar Fjalarsson – looks like an Icelandic DJ Qualls. Ari is an awkward sixteen year-old shipped from the city to live with his drunken father in the remote Westfjords. The scenery is beautiful and fresh, but the story is not: Ari struggles to fit into the rural community, struggles to make friends, struggles to win the affections of his childhood friend Lára (Rakel Björk Björnsdóttir), who’s now saddled with an aggressive dickhead of a boyfriend.
We’ve – I’ve – seen so many coming-of-age stories centred on quiet nerds that the opening hour of Sparrows struggles to set itself apart. It’s not until the final third that writer/director Rúnar Rúnarsson diverges from formula with a pair of – spoilers, I suppose – sexual assaults, one borrowed directly from his 2008 short, 2 Birds. Each of these incidents is an undeniably disorienting shock, but it’s hard to say whether either amount to much in the scheme of things. The comparatively hopeful conclusion, in particular, seems to position a questionable act of denial as one of admirable chivalry; if anything, Rúnarsson has weakened his earlier short by dropping it into a tired coming-of-age narrative.