Movie a Day Blog realizes that just as Swedish detective fiction has proved enormously popular, so has Swedish filmmaking.
No longer simply Ingmar Bergman’s province of the dark Scandinavian soul, Swedish films are now cutting edge in how they present crime (the GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trio of adaptations) and even vampires (Tomas Alfredson’s excellent LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)).
I had seen and admired Lukas Moodysson’s LILYA 4-EVER (2002), so when I saw his earlier film TOGETHER (2000) was streaming on Netflix, I had to check it out, and was not disappointed.
TOGETHER is an upbeat film despite the domestic abuse crisis that triggers the story, and brings Elizabeth and her two children to her older brother Goran’s commune. It’s 1975 and the same communal fervor that gripped the Woodstock generation in America has traveled across the ocean to normally staid Sweden.
The commune members are an international cross-section of disaffected young people, although some are in their mid-30s: a newly self-discovered lesbian and her resentful husband; a cross-dressing man with a blonde fright wig and an aching need for love; a self-involved couple who find everything beneath their radical standards; and a couple of wild kids who join the lonely son and teenage daughter of Elizabeth, who has her own personal discoveries to make.
The action rarely leaves the house where the commune resides, yet I was never bored or looking for something more dramatic to occur. Moodysson, in a very casual but thoughtful way shows how the introduction of a new family into the mix ends up setting off a chain reaction in the characters’ relationships.
Unexpected couples emerge, Eva the teen daughter finds a soulmate who shares her poor eyesight, and Sam Kessel as the young son can finally stop fighting the world and relax. The key to the resolution of the family’s dilemma and the plot is the redemption of Rolf, the violent husband and father who clearly has a drinking and inner rage problem.
At first Elizabeth rightly wants nothing to do with him (when we first meet her, she’s sporting a fat lip and a lot of anger), but the children miss their father and Rolf seems truly repentant. Played by Michael Nykvist, who starred as crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO movies and in my book was better in the role than Daniel Craig in the American remake, Rolf goes from being a drunken cliche to a man really trying to re-set his life.
The fact that Moodysson remains so non-judgmental about Rolf is remarkable in a contemporary film, where the abusive boyfriend/husband is one of the easier villains to summon up when needed. But the Swedes seem very much a live-and-let-live people, despite the emotions roiling up at various junctures of TOGETHER.
This commune finally proves not to be very together at all, but that doesn’t seem to particularly upset any of the participants. Life goes on, and so do families, new couples and people in a continual search for who they really are. TOGETHER celebrates them all, in a feel-good movie that actually feels good.