Comparisons are being immediately drawn between Baldvin Zophoníasson’s Icelandic teen drama Jitters and the Brit TV show Skins. I’ve never seen an episode of that show so I can’t confirm the comparisons but something tells me I may have similar praises and criticisms for both.
After a trip to Manchester, Gabriel (Atli Oskar Fjalarsso) returns home after having made a new friend of sorts, Markus, who he kissed while on a drunken night out. He struggles with his confused feelings as he gets on with his life amongst his usual group of friends, who have their own sets of problems, both separate and intwined with Gabriel’s.
Jitters is at least half a really good movie. When it concentrates on poignant moments of relatable emotion and the general problems teens have – especially in this modern society when “there is temptation everywhere,” as Gabriel’s mother says – Jitters is an effective film.
But too often it lapses into over-the-top melodrama, and these moments seem to occur right after a major (usually tragic) event. One such event in particular, which sets things on a new course for most of the main characters, has a jolt of terrific emotional shock and impact for the viewer, but the aftermath seems to do everything to undo what the film has just achieved, not least with the unnecessary use of pop songs.
The main issue that the film attempts to deal with is Gabriel’s struggle with his sexual identity, whether him kissing Markus meant anything, if he should “carry on as normal” once he’s back home and so forth. The film feels a bit thin and shallow when it comes to this aspect, never really delving deep enough and only really getting it right at the very end with a well played moment of resolution. It’s the side plots involving Gabriel’s many friends where the real effective drama lies, from his troubled friend Stella (whose grandmother is “always breathing down her neck”) to his friend Greta who wants to locate her estranged father.
Sometimes a little too overstuffed and overly dramatic for its own good, Jitters misses the necessary targets to make it a truly important film about teen angst. But when it does hit the right notes it’s emotional and quite effective, in particular the ending which delivers on a dangling plot thread with a poignant moment which connects brilliantly. And the fact that the film has very solid performances from the young cast helps you to overlook its evident shortcomings.