Get our free newsletter
Usually when a film has a plump, introverted, quirky teenager as its protagonist, there’s something charming enough about the kid to keep his trials interesting. Not so in Jens Jonsson’s King of Ping Pong, in which Swedish 16-year-old Rille (Jerry Johansson) is purportedly an ace at table tennis but comes off more like the King of Blah. Contrary to the film’s title, the game is a minor part of the story, though Rille talks a little about it, droning in voiceover or to polite listeners that “it’s the last remaining egalitarian sport‚” and somehow connecting this to America’s reputation as a global bully. The latter is an attitude he shares with his father (Georgi Staykov), an oil rigger who’s supposedly bad news (random allusions to drunkenness don’t paint a thorough picture), separated from Rille’s doormat mother (Ann-Sofie Nurmi), and seems an awful lot more similar to Rille’s younger, attractive, popular brother, Erik (Hampus Johansson). Meanwhile, Rille starts to wonder exactly how long Mom’s annoying, likewise portly boyfriend (Frederik Nilsson) has been in her life. Rille mostly stares and acts surly as we try to figure out the ill-defined troubles going through his head. By far, the most enjoyable aspect of King of Ping Pong is Askild Edvardsen’s cinematography, with the white-beige-sky-blue color scheme of Sweden’s icy outdoors replicated in everything from the characters’ homes to their outfits.