Tag Archives: Lukas Moodyson

Movie Review: Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

lily

Rating: A-/ Prostitution is bad, okay, kids? Lukas Moodyson’s tale of a sixteen-year-old girl sold into sexual slavery will scare any man away from hiring a hooker much in the same way that Requiem for a Dream scared us away from heroin abuse. Much of it’s power relies on the performance of Oksana Akinshina as Lilya, a world-weary but somehow naive teen ekeing out an existence in a low-income Estonian suburb. Lilya’s mother (Lyubov Agapova) abandons her willful daughter at home to go run away with her boyfriend to a new life in the U.S., and her aunt (Liliya Shinkaryova) (a grade-a cunt if there ever was one) moves her niece into a complete shithole so she can live in relative comfort in Lilya and her mother’s apartment. In fact, Lilya’s only real lifeline is an abused adolescent named Volodya (Artyom Bogucharskiy,) who becomes her confidante and friend. Continue reading Movie Review: Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

Advertisements

Together (2000)

togetherposter

    Together is a comedy of small events and big characters, which is sure to have you laughing and cringing at the same time. The premise is a mix of the dramatic and absurd; the year is 1975, and Swedish housewife Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) is a downtrodden mother of two who gets smacked around by her alkie husband (Michael Nyqvist) (again.) So she grabs the kids, Stefan and Eva (Sam Kessel and Emma Samuelsson) and moves into her brother  Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten)’s commune.

No sooner has she shacked up there than personalities clash big-time. The brother, a kind-hearted but ineffectual communist-sympathizing beatnik, wonders why everybody can’t just get along. But in a group of the Liberal, the very very Liberal, and the even more Liberal arguing on profound matters such as whether washing dishes is bourgeois, the arrival of a relatively strait-laced mother and her two young kids might be more than the odd  little family can handle.

together

As the commune’s resident free-spirited lesbian Anna (Jessica Liedberg) encourages Elisabeth to reclaim her feminine power and independence, the deeply unhappy kids try to reconnect with their father, who has sunk into a drunken despair; and the group must find some way to balance the children in their crazy lives. This leads to a disagreement between the hippies when meat eating, television, and war games are thrown into the mix.

Although the film makes fun of hippies to some extent, it kind of embraces them too, and this juxtaposition is handled evenly and consistently throughout. While Elisabeth is getting out of a bad relationship, her brother Goran is stuck in one, and the two siblings inspire and aid each other to some extent. Together is somewhat disturbing at times because of the borderline neglect the hippies inflict on their own children in the commune. One little boy of about six claims to have built a tolerance to alcohol by stealing wine from the kitchen, insisting that the adults ‘never notice,’ and the kids witness the grown-up’s self-absorbed drama as members of the commune have indiscriminate sex, experiment with homosexuality, and show no discretion about anything around their children, who seem more like an afterthought than a important facet to their lives.

together3

It’s preferable to, say, growing up in a crack house, but that’s a discernment no child should ever have to make. Out of the hippies, Goran is the most likable and sympathetic- he’s a sweet and all-around good guy who genuinely cares about his companions and wants to make everyone happy. The character arc dictates that he will eventually learn that you can’t make everyone happy, no matter how nice a guy you are. Elisabeth’s character arc is a little bit more questionable, especially when you see the decision  she makes at the end. The kids give charming and charismatic performances, particularly Sam Kessel as little Stefan, and a cute ‘forbidden’ romance between the son (Henrik Lundsrtom) of prudish, repressed neighbor parents and Elisabeth’s daughter is a welcome escape from some pretty dark subject matter.

As a decidedly non-Hollywood fish-out-of-water comedy, Together definitely has it’s moments, but it’s as a bittersweet drama that it really seems to excel. It’s obviously a low-budget effort; it looks cheap and the sound editing could really use some work, but the actors do a good job and the characters alternately charm you or infuriate you with their craziness, sometimes at the same time. The movie offers up the message that even the biggest radical needs to give and take a little to find balance in life. Although from vastly different worlds, Goran’s commune and Elisabeth’s family find goodness and personal enrichment in each other’s company. Sometimes the perfect combination of values isn’t far left or far right, but somewhere snugly in the middle.

Warning; this movie has full-frontal nudity and a disturbing scene where an adult tries to seduce a child. However, if you are a more adventurous and less sensitive film goer, these aspects should not deter you from watching an engaging and likable film.

together2

We Are the Best (2013)

werthebest

One does not need to be a punk aficionado to appreciate the warmth and heart behind “We Are the Best!,” a charming Swedish film directed by Lukas Moodyson, based on his wife Coco’s graphic novel. The characters and dialogue seem somehow very engaging and natural, and the three girl actors (playing a trio of adolescents who start a punk rock group) give  candid, believable performances.

Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are two girls in their very early teens who are overlooked by their respective families and get no support at school. Perhaps as a result, the kids fancy themselves punk rocker rebels whose day-to-day frustration is only matched by their attempts to ‘stick it to the man.’ They both sport unconventional hairstyles (a Mohawk and a boy’s haircut,) perhaps willfully trying to break away from typically feminine ‘little girl’ labels.

The two girls decide one day that they want to perform a punk song about hating gym, but neither of them have any musical talent. Klara decides to enlist shy and pious Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne) to teach them how to play an instrument, hoping to possibly influence Hedvig with their punk basasserie away from God in the process.

Whether they make an atheist out of Hedvig is highly doubtful, but they do help her to loosen up and enjoy herself a bit more, and she aids them in improving their musical skills. Trouble arises when Klara begins to put on make-up and fetches the attention of a punk teen and Bobo starts to feel unattractive and alienated. It’s typical teenaged angst, applied with the  gentle touch of an artist who knows what it’s like to be a kid with raging hormones and best friend troubles.

I found Klara to be somewhat irritating with her attempts to alienate Hedvig for having any kind of faith, but it does lead to an amusing and insightful discussion of religion and the challenge of believing in something you can neither see nor touch. Bobo was a cutie. I really liked her. My heart also went out to Hedvig and it was inspiring to see her start to enjoy herself a little more (although Hedvig’s tightly-wound mother was none too happy to see that Bobo and Klara had cut her straight-laced darling’s hair punk-style.)

I was genuinely worried for the girls when they go to meet some teenaged punk artists to mingle and flirt, and was relieved they came back in one piece. The parents, especially Bobo’s irresponsible, childish mom, were infinitely aggravating . Still, nothing was exaggerated or overwritten. It isn’t cruelty the girls have to contend with (from their parents, their classmates are another story) or even blatant uncaring as much as ignorance and distractedness.

*SPOILER* I also loved how the performance the girls gave at the end was a total failure and the opposing band and the ignoramus adults in charge of the whole thing barely gave them a chance to play but the trio couldn’t haven given less of a fuck. The climactic  scene is not like a lot of others of its kind in many ways- the girls aren’t appreciated or even particularly good, but they get a kick out of doing it so that’s what they do. *END OF SPOILER*

“We Are the Best!” is a delightful experience because it’s so human and accessible, and draws compelling performances from its three young actresses. Anyone whose ever felt like a misfit, especially girls who have been discomforted and bewildered by the Barbie-doll standards of femininity will empathize with “We  Are the Best!”‘s winsome trio.

We-Are-the-Best-Movie