Directed by Lukas Moodysson. Starring Gustav Hammarsten, Lisa Lindgren, Ola Norell, Jessica Liedberg, Shanti Roney.
Elizabeth leaves her alcoholic, abusive husband and goes with her children to live with her brother, Goran, in his commune. It is 1975 Sweden and the house is embracing socialism, vegetarianism and free love. 'Together' is the second feature from the writer/director of the acclaimed 'Fucking Amal', Lukas Moodysson. This culture shock comedy drama may not look as good on paper as it turns out on film, but the thin premise is so richly invested with wonders that it effortlessly succeeds.
Hammarsten plays Goran as a human doormat, a guy so obliging that he feels compelled to agree with everyone. In the middle of an open relationship with his spoilt, attention-seeking girlfriend, he feels unable to admit to himself or to her that he doesn't like her to sleep with anyone else. Lasse (Norell) is the joker and resident cynic of the group whose views have become increasingly bitter since the break-up of his marriage with Anna (Liedberg). Anna now styles herself a lesbian as the ultimate rejection of patriarchy, while gay lovelorn Klas (Roney) lusts after Lasse, who refuses to acknowledge a homosexual side to his makeup.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is enjoying her newfound freedom and the novelty of being found attractive, even if it is by the predatory Anna. Her two kids, a 13-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy have various rites-of-passage things to deal with, not least the feeling of shame towards their bungling father, let alone the embarrassment towards their uncle dropping them to school in the VW hippie-mobile.
Moodysson's gentle humour may poke fun at the naivety of his commune dwellers, but it is done with a good-natured empathy. They are always portrayed as real people, which is a difficult thing to do, given the amount of ridicule hippies have endured by way of popular culture in the past. I kept thinking of Neil from 'The Young Ones', but maybe they didn't have that in Sweden! The drama is touching and convincing from a fine ensemble cast and the comedy springs organically from the ridiculous notions of our doped-up hosts.
In the beginning, we are thrown in at the very coalface of house-sharing tension – that of whose turn it is to do the washing up! Finally, one of them storms off with the assertion that 'washing up is so bourgeois'. That's the old gag of the bone-idle hippie, who proclaims everything that requires a modicum of hard work as an attempt by the bourgeois to subvert his/her principles, but it still works in a realistic context, as the characters are truthfully written and essentially very likeable. 'Together' is an unhurried, mellow joy from a considerable talent, who just seems to be warming up.