You ever watch THE HILLS? You know that style of non-fiction narrative filmmaking where conversations between real people are either staged or re-enacted in front of cameras under someone’s direction? I don’t know how I feel about those. And that’s mostly why I don’t know how I feel about TONGUE CUTTERS.

Ylva is a nine year old girl from Oslo who’s spending the summer up in Northern Norway with her grandparents. And when the children from that area are of a certain age, they take jobs in the fisheries cutting out cod tongues. She meets Tobias, a local boy of ten years of age, who makes quite the living cutting out cod tongues with speed and efficiency. They become fast friends and have conversations about divorce, love, what they each want out of life.

Tobias is incredible. Wise beyond his years and a natural on his hoverboard. He’s looking to make enough money cutting tongues to buy a boat. A small boat, but still. Not like, a remote control boat. Like an actual boat size boat that you can take out on the water.

Apparently, the adults gave the job of cutting tongues to kids because it didn’t pay that well. I’d like to argue that if you can buy a boat with a small loan, it pays better than you think.

Ylva’s charming. Tobias is charming. Everybody’s charming. The whole community is charm incarnate. Heck, even the act of picking up a severed cod head, impaling it on a pike, cutting out the skin between its jaws under its chin and cutting around the tongue only to discard the rest of its head is charming after a while. The children giggle as blood is hosed off their slicker jackets, and it’s hard not to laugh with them.

I don’t know if anybody’s ever sad in this village. Everybody loves fish. Everybody loves the water. It’s a nice time. Everybody is nice and has a nice time. The movie itself is as slick as their jackets as any emotion more negative than momentary embarrassment is washed away. Polished professional cinemascope frames of smiles and laughter.

If you like nice movies about kind people enjoying the wholesome activity of bloody fish butchery in a fishery, you would love TONGUE CUTTERS and you should probably watch it. For me, I don’t know. I guess I must love misery. I’ll take my charm elsewhere. TWO AND A HALF STARS

BONUS REVIEW: I’ve been coming to this festival every year for four years and for all four of those years, I’ve seen a new movie by Charlie Lyne (two features, two shorts), including FISH STORY, his new short about his friend Caspar Salmon’s unusual name.

His story about his name isn’t really about his name, but is instead about a “sea place” in Anglesey, an island in North Wales. Back in the late eighties, they had a promotion for their opening where they invited locals with fishy surnames to attend, and gave everyone a fish that matched their surname. The whole thing was hosted by meteorologist Michael Fish. And yet, curiously, thirty years later, no one’s heard of it.

I like Charlie Lyne’s movies because they’re constantly in motion, new information coming at a speed just a bit faster than you can understand it. And as the gears mesh, a story about a surname turns into an investigation with twists and turns every minute.

Big laughs, local charm, and a heartwarming conclusion. It’s like FARGO without the murder. FOUR STARS