Together (2000)

      The 1960s and 70s seems to be enjoying a cultural resurgence. On TV, there's
<I>That '70s Show<R>, while on stage concert versions of <I>Hair<R> in New York
City and Los Angeles were popular and one of the hottest tickets on Broadway is
<I>Mamma Mia!<R>, a show utilizing the music of ABBA. Books and articles written by
children raised by hippies are being published. (Many seem to blame their parents for a
plethora of unresolved issues.) So <I>Together<R>, the new film from Swedish enfant
terrible Lukas Moodysson, has arrived at the perfect time.  Not only has Moodysson
tapped into the Zeitgeist, he has done so in an engaging, if not altogether successful,
manner.

      Over the last couple of years, Moodysson has emerged as one of Sweden's more
promising filmmakers. His first feature, 1999's well-received and well-made <I>Show Me
Love<R> (which originally carried a more scatological title that could not be used in
family publications), examined in sensitive detail the growing relationship between two
teenage girls, one of whom was a lesbian. A published poet and author, Moodysson found
the inspiration for his second motion picture, <I>Tillsammans<R> (retitled
<I>Together<R> for its US run), in an exhibition of artwork from the 1960s and 70s. He
has also admitted that there are some autobiographical elements (e.g., his own parents
divorced when he was a child, he shares the political ideology of one of the characters),
but the overall story of life in a commune in the mid-70s burst from his imagination.


      "Tillsammans" is the name of the commune a group of idealistic young Swedes
have established in a suburban area of Stockholm. Their neighbors aren't too happy with
the long-haired proponents of vegetarianism, free love and political openness, but the eight
men and woman (some couples, some not) and the handful of kids who inhabit the house
don't care. Among the residents are people-pleaser Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten), serving
as the head of the household, and his companion Lena (Anja Lundqvist), who embraces
the ideals of free love. There are also Lasse (Ola Norell), a graduate student newly
divorced from Anna (Jessica Liedberg) who has announced she's become a lesbian, their
son Tet (Axel Zuber), Klas (Shanti Roney), an openly gay man, Erik (Olle Sarri), a
revolutionary, and the more staid couple Signe (Cecilia Frode) and Sigvard (Lars Frode).
Their delicate balance is upset when Goran's sister Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) leaves her
abusive husband (Michael Nyqvist) and takes her two kids Eva (Emma Samuelsson) and
Stefan (Sam Kessel) to live in the commune.

      While her kids have an initial dislike for their new environs, Elisabeth acclimates
herself fairly well. Social upheaval, though, is in the works as the members of the
commune each come to question their individual ideologies. Some leave, others shift
perspectives. Stefan begins to bond with Tet, all the while harboring hopes of a reunion
between his parents, while his sister begins a tentative friendship with Fredrik (Henrik
Lundstrom), the son of the commune's neighbors.
      Moodysson handles most of the material fairly well, although he has an annoying
signature habit of over-utilizing the zoom lens. (The same technique marred <I>Show Me
Love<R>.) Ironically, the subplot he bungles the most is one involving Klas' crush on
Lasse. Whereas he showed restraint and sensitivity in his handling of a lesbian relationship
in his first film, in <I>Together<R> much of Klas' struggle is played for cheap laughs. And
Moodysson uses a horrible cliche about a particular sex act as a means for Klas to
"convert" Lasse. It's offensive and the fact it elicits laughs from audiences is
unacceptable.

      Moodysson further sabotages his own effort in the final section of the film wherein
a lot of loose ends are tied up a bit too nicely. Had he opted to maintain the realistic tone
and attitude with which he began the film, <I>Together<R> would have been a much
better film. As it stands, the writer-director clearly demonstrates that he is a man of
prodigious talent, with a great deal of it on display in this film.


      Rating: B
      MPAA Rating: R
      Running time: 106 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.