Toronto
1 min

How Swede it is

Teen beat means more than Abba

FRESH. Rebecca Liljeberg and Alexandra Dahlstom come of age in the charming Swedish film, Show Me Love. Credit: Xtra files

From the land where flinging your naked, deliberately overheated body into a bank of snow is not considered sexual perversion, comes the superb little film, Show Me Love – originally titled Fucking Amal, the name the teenagers call their Swedish hometown.

The town’s teenagers have a distinctive form of ennui.

Larry Clark’s Kids showed the inner-city, white, dry-rot version of tedium; Eric Bogosian’s SubUrbia shows the bungalow take on the same; and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless is the Hollywood offering. What sets Show Me Love apart from all the rest is not so much what it is, but what it isn’t. And what it isn’t, is addled by the artifice of exhausting stereotypes.

Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) lives in Amal, small town Sweden, where distractions are few and gossip circulates quickly. She is the school outcast, a result of rumours about her lesbian inclinations. Retreating to the safety of her computer, she writes poetry about Elin (Alexandra Dahistrom), the lascivious, A-list blonde.

Repelled by the tedium of yet another house party with jocks sodden by their parents’ alcohol, Elin and her friends attend Agnes’s sixteenth birthday party, which becomes the scene of excruciating teen angst, told with spare Scandinavian economy. It is in the ashes of this failed party where Elin and Agnes first kiss, a kiss which turns into a malicious school prank. The prank spins off chaotic hearsay and both girls struggle in a teenage way – part guile, part na•vetŽ – to reconcile their emotions.

It’s a fresh take on an age-old story.

Thirty-year-old director and screenwriter Lukas Moodysson is aware of the sophisticated relevance of making this film now. “There was a 20-year-old Swedish film about two girls who fell in love, but it was never released. Everyone hated it, mostly because of the subject. Even if it had been made five years ago, the critics would have liked it, but teenagers wouldn’t have come because they’d have been afraid they’d be labeled as gay.

“When Show Me Love was released almost a year ago, it was labeled a teen movie, not a gay movie.”

Show Me Love is now playing at the Carlton (20 Carlton St, 416-598-2309) and Canada Square (2198 Yonge St, 416-962-2891).