Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Show Me Love
Show Me Love
Sweden 1998, dir. Lukas Moodysson, stars Alexandra Dahlstrom, Rebecca Liljeberg
Show Me Love is a dreadful non-title for any movie, perhaps only appropriate for a soft-core filler on Channel 5, and certainly nowhere near as powerful as Fucking Amal, which is how this film was released – to enormous box office and critical acclaim – in its native Sweden. Then again, Fucking Amal doesn’t quite fit, either. Amal isn’t a person, it’s a place, the frustratingly drab small town where the story unfolds. But while Fucking Amal seems to promise hardcore punk attitude and nihilistic thrills, the film itself is perhaps closer in tone to the milder new title – it’s an understated, beguiling, terrifically endearing teenage love story, which just happens to be about two girls rather than a girl and a boy.
Any cinematic love story stands or falls on the performances of the leads, and Show Me Love is boosted no end by the thoroughly convicing presence of Dahlstrom and Liljeberg in the sharply contrasting central roles. Liljeberg is unpopular Agnes, a gloomily introspective sort who harbours a secret passion for firecracker blonde Elin, played by Dahlstrom as a kind of freewheeling mix of Judy Holliday, Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Jason Leigh, attractive and maddening in equal measure. Her vocal range is spot-on – watch for the droll scene where she consults a style magazine to make the horrifying discovery that raves, like pasta and the Spice Girls, are firmly in the “out” column, before Amal has ever even witnessed one.
The ups and downs that the pair have to experience before finally getting together aren’t earth-shatteringly entertaining in themselves – instead screenwriter Moodysson aims to capture the everyday pettinesses, obsessions and rivalries of teenagers, and to a large extent he succeeds. His depiction of these kids’ interactions and surroundings may be casual and understated, but by the end you may have difficulty recalling another film, from any country, which so faithfully and non-judgementally shows us how young people of this age carry on their lives.
Moodysson’s limitations as a director – I can’t recall a film that used so many clumsy zoom shots – don’t really matter much. In fact, they occasionally work to the film’s advantage, as his awkwardness with the camera mirrors the gaucheness of the characters as they struggle to express their true feelings for each other. Show Me Love clocks in at a shade below 90 minutes – it’s an efficient, enjoyable little picture, consistently hitting the right spot and avoiding the many pitfalls to which this kind of material can be prone.
by Neil Young