It is the 1970s and a group of very different individuals live together as a community. One of the members' sister, Elisabeth, needs a new place to stay with her children after having had enough of her alcoholic and abusive husband. Elisabeth is neither a socialist nor a feminist nor into the green movement but ends up loving living in the community where they all learn from each other. The film makes a little fun of people with strong ideals and "square" minds whether they be vegans, communists or people who absolutely disgust vegans or socialists. In the end, the message of the film is that people can grow and gain from bonding with each other. It also shows how we need to shape up a little for this to work, either through working on our behaviour that affects other people badly (like alcoholism or abuse) or the need to set boundaries and not let other people walk all over oneself.Written by
one house; one revolutionary; two open straight marriages; three gay people (maybe four); three children; two carnivores and eight vegetarians; there's only one way they're going to make it... together
Göran is making porridge. For some reason this prompts him to deliver an improvised musing on the theme of Life Is Like a Bowl of Porridge, which goes roughly as follows: "We start as individual oat flakes, each with an individual shape; then we're heated and mixed and we start to blend together with all the other oat flakes; we're no longer oat flakes, but we're part of something larger - something warm, nutritious, and, yes, beautiful." Göran says this as though he's trying to convince himself. And no wonder. The porridge the camera reveals to us looks like repellent glomp.
And up until that point - well, up until a little before that point; the film's arc is like a long walk up a very gentle hill and it's hard to pick the precise moment at which we make it to the top - the collective seemed just as much a dollop of repellent glomp as the porridge. There were too many people too close together, the windows were never open, and for long stretches we never stepped outside, never even caught a glimpse of the outside. Every single room looked and felt as though it were buried in the very centre of the house. It was like living in a fetid warren, and it made me long for something cold and impersonal.
But even as we're gasping to escape we're being won over. In the end the film really IS warm, and it's the pleasing warmth of a fireplace rather than clammy warmth of porridge. The joyousness Moodysson concludes with grew so naturally out of what preceded it that the glow it casts is retrospective. I can't recall a single moment which I don't NOW (having seen the whole thing) recall with fondness.
The LOOK of the film is, in a quiet way, astonishing, except that it's so convincing you forget to be astonished. You'd swear it was shot in the 1970s. (When I saw the trailer I thought was watching an ad for the reissue of a movie that HAD been shot in the 1970s.) This is as great a triumph of art direction as any you're likely to see.
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