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:: Show Me Love

Quite different from an American perspective of a teenager’s existence, “Show Me Love” is not bound by the constraints of typical feel-good teen romance stories by American filmmakers. Director Lukas Moodysson, in his debut feature, provides a powerful, affecting story of the tribulations of two teenage girls who struggle with their sexuality and identity.

Not much happens in the Swedish town of Amal. They seem to be a bit behind the times from the other regions. The popular and beautiful Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom), a fifteen year old student, wants to go out for a rave only to find that they are now out everywhere but Amal. Elin and her sister Jessica (Erica Carlson) instead go to a birthday party for Agnes Ahlberg (Rebecka Liljeberg). The party is a non-event because of Agnes’ unpopularity until, when hearing rumours that Agnes is a lesbian, Jessica dares Elin to make an advance on Agnes. Elin kisses Agnes and runs off. Agnes is left confused with lipstick all over her face. Elin’s joke backfires as she then realises she has feelings towards Agnes. Later that evening, with remorse, Elin returns to apologise. The two girls talk and share their innermost thoughts, and their night ends with a “real” kiss. The next day, frightened by her feeling for Agnes, Elin ropes in Johan (Mathias Rust) as a boyfriend and ignores Agnes, who is hurt.

The film spins out the consequences of that night and the questions remain about the relationship, within this phase they are going through. The interesting observation, and it makes the film extra good, is that we can see Elin’s pragmatic approach to self-discovery. This film never romanticises the matter but presents it with futuristic normality. The director seems rather impressed with the specific ways in which two girls love each other.

The film is shot in a documentary style format, with handheld cameras and unexciting visual shots, except for the beautiful faces of the girls. The overall tone, despite what has been packed into it, stays light. There are many funny moments and it’s very watchable for the fine performances and the cute ending. Alexandra Dahlstrom, as Elin, is thoroughly believable and exudes great confidence and realness. Her subtle presence as the gorgeous blonde student, with whom all others want to be, is illuminating. Rebecka Liljeberg’s performance as Agnes is a fiercer portrayal and she complements Elin to give greater depth.

“Show Me Love” is a warm, engrossing story, and perhaps one of the most dramatically sound depictions of the adolescent struggles that we’ve seen in a while. The fact that the film has won awards at Berlin, Norway, London and Rotterdam film festivals in 1999 says much of its quality. We should be glad that it has made it to Australia. It is highly recommended.