Lukas Moodysson, 1998
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Oh boy, did this film ever take me back a few years (back to high school that is, not coming to terms with being a lesbian )! I'm certain I've never seen a film that so accurately portrays those tumultuous years when school feels like the entire world and your adulthood is too distant to factor into it. It's really spot on. ... I was so satisfied with this film, I would recommend it to anybody!
Yeah. I just basically understood these characters and could see them all around me (in various manifestations). CINECAST!, SHE HAS A PICTURE OF MORRISSEY IN HER BEDROOM. These things matter as do the way the camera zooms sort of intensify the focus on the film's characters and the awesome use of music, not only highlighting but being an essential part in understanding the characters. Because, ultimately, it's all about that and if the film doesn't get you on that level then whateverz (to you). Most of the characterizations are pretty much pitch-perfect to me (except the girl in the wheelchair) and the way they're handled (arcs and whatnot) is awesomez (especially, the dude guy with that bit at the end with him crying). The ending is kinda too obvious but if it works for them, it works for me. I could see myself revisiting this and falling more into it. Just loved the heady confusion of it all. Yeah!
While not a particularly new story, the specificity of the characters and performances elevate this above your standard teen flick. And director Lukas Moodysson uses an elegant, handheld indie style that captures the rough realism of the performances (not just from the main girls, but from the excellent supporting cast as well) and keeps the whole thing from feeling less generic than it really is. It's all very quite lovely, and all that realism pays off by making a wildly improbable ending far more emotionally satisfying than it has any right to be.
Overall I liked it, more than Together, and more than I usually like films made in this style. I still think Moodysson uses and abuses the camera zoom more than anyone else out there. It's like he's trying to distract you with his erratic push ins, but it wasn't as omnipresent here as in Together. It also has two very, very likable leads which is great because the rest of the cast is made up of clueless but sometimes earnest adults and your typical batch of snobby, mean girls and clueless guys who just want to have sex. ... Moodysson has created good characters, but struggles to bring the narrative to feature length. When focusing on the two girls he has my complete attention, but when he expands to the parents, siblings and (especially) friends I lose interest. The final sequence in the school is great, and very well executed. I don't know why the film didn't end there. The chocolate milk scene after is completely unnecessary. ... Other than the location, there's nothing new being discovered in Åmål. I didn't need him to remind me that all teens are going through emotional turmoil and parents just don't understand no matter how hard they try. That's why The Breakfast Club is a better film, as is Smooth Talk, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the romantic longings of Wong Kar Wai.
Fortunately, the movie was neither as lurid nor as simple-minded as I feared, and is actually a fairly honest depiction of the pitfalls, confusion and cruelty of adolescence. The two young actresses at the center of the film are both exceptionally good, and although Moodysson's simple camera style doesn't leave much to discuss, it does lend everything a Cassavetes-like intimacy. There is a certain predictability to it, however, and the ending seems a little too easy given how generally realistic the rest of it is. But perhaps it's warranted... for these characters, it's the moment that matters, not the future. Agnes even tells us as much. Let them have the moment they've earned, cynicism be damned.
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.