Europe’s more liberal attitude toward homosexuality is brought to bear in Swedish writer/director Lukas Moodysson’s “Show Me Love,” a coming-of-age comedy about two teen-age girls falling in love.
Whether this openness is good or bad depends on your point of view, but one thing is clear: America doesn’t often make films on this subject that are anywhere near this realistic.
Set in the small, conservative town of Amal, the main character is Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg), an awkward 14-year-old whose family moved to town two years ago but who has yet to make any friends. It’s rumored she’s a lesbian, and indeed, she is secretly in love with blond and beautiful Elin (Alexandra Dahlström), who has made out with a lot of guys but is growing tired of them.
Agnes’s parents force her to have a birthday party, despite her insistance that she has no friends. Sure enough, only her wheelchair-bound pseudo-friend Viktoria (Josefine Nyberg) shows up — and Agnes lashes out in wince-inducing cruelty toward her, frustrated as she is at her own isolation and lack of belonging.
Meanwhile, Elin and her slutty sister Jessica (Erica Carlson), seeking some kind of entertainment, go to Agnes’s party, where they are surprised to find themselves the only attendees. On a dare, Elin kisses Agnes to see if she’s really gay, but the kiss awakens feelings in Elin she wasn’t sure she had before.
Two of what must be the more common scenarios for this situation are examined with great sympathy and realism. Agnes, floored at having received attention from the object of her desires, meekly hopes for a more lasting relationship, though not daring to expect it. Elin, meanwhile, acquires a knee-jerk boyfriend (Mathias Rust) as a means of keeping her mind off these disturbing new emotions.
Liljeberg is a talented young actress, perceptively playing all of Agnes’s moods. Her despair at the flop her party turns out to be is heart-rending, and her tentative steps toward self-acceptance are vividly played. Dahlström, too, gives Elin the quirks necessary to make her real.
The film really is very simple. It takes place over just a few days, and the plot does not hinge around any one major event (except for that kiss, which happens early on). No external forces drive Elin and Agnes together; it is just the natural progression of things, right up to the end, when they literally and symbolically come out of the closet together. It’s a water closet, sure, but close enough.
B+ (; )