Getting the French to admit “Journey to Greenland” was inspired by the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon “The Trip” mockumentaries might be as difficult as filming this series turned into a movie. Because, you know, they filmed it in GREENLAND.
Pair up a couple of comic actors named Thomas — Thomas Scimeca, recently seen in “La Belle Epoch”, and Thomas Blanchard, one of the players in the absurdly quirky “Mandibles” — find an excuse to put them on a chopper to remote Kullorsuaq, an Inuit community on the icy coast, and see if something funny turns up.
It’s a deadpan “fish out of water” comedy that has a script but rarely seems like it. Perhaps writer-director Sébastien Betbeder gave them more of a Coogan/Brydon outline.
“Thomas, your father moved to Greenland. And Thomas, you play his struggling actor friend, so you tag along.”
What ensues is are some seriously deadpan takes on Greenlandish life, just enough back story to show how the two-guys-named-Thomas met (an improv class in which they questioned and irritated the teacher, then walked out of together), and let the cultures clash.
Tall Thomas (Blanchard) wants to be introduced to Miss Kullorsuaq, who is quite cute but a bit young for the scruffy, 30something failed-actor.
But, but…”I am in a period very conducive to falling in love!”
Short Thomas, visiting the father who gave up his life, career, marriage and perhaps some parenting responsibilities to stay in Greenland after a visit years ago, marvels at being in a land of the Midnight Sun.
“The sun is shining all the time,” he notes (in French, with English subtitles), and looking at every house in the village, including the one he’s trying to sleep in, his father’s. “Not a shutter in sight.”
The guys jog on the ice floes, with the locals wondering (in Inuit) “Why are those guys always in such a hurry?”
They check out a local rock band, try a few local delicacies, and pick up on how hard lives are there, the loss every family has faced at one point or another. They dabble in ice fishing and find themselves on a seal hunt and its gruesome aftermath. Here, try an eyeball.
“You’ll taste the lens,” father Nathan (François Chattot) coaxes. “Not bad.”
There’s a little melodrama, a couple of flashbacks to their lives back in France (a botched take on a movie set) that hint there’s more comedy to be found there, and plenty of reminders of how easy their lives are when compared to the ones they’re dropping in on.
And at every point — the failed womanizing, the “fine dining” (raw seal liver), the sight seeing (ice, more ice) — they seem to send up the various “Trip” movies that Coogan, Brydon and Michael Winterbottom turned out.
“Journey” isn’t a laugh riot, but there are enough quirky grins and giggles that you can almost feel the structure of the three half-hour (or so) TV episodes aired back in 2015 that were edited together to make this film.
Rating: unrated, graphic animal slaughter scenes
Cast: Thomas Scimeca, Thomas Blanchard, François Chattot, Ole Eliassen
Credits: Scripted and directed by Sébastien Betbeder. A UFO release on Netflix.
Running time: 1:38