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Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998)

 

    The American title of Lukas Moodyssonís debut Fucking Amal is Show Me Love. Itís a shame to have a movie thatís so specific in its observations of teen angst be blandly named after a Swedish pop song, even if the teens in the movie listen to pop songs. Fucking Amal, a title that refers to the town that the film takes place in, instead suggests a very distinct kind of annoyance with the world these kids are stuck in for the time being. Almost to the same degree that it chronicles the tentative, swooning ups and downs of teen love, the movie puts a finger on the kind of adolescent restlessness that results in small rebellions and grand romantic gestures. When it gets at the blanket of irrational anger that these confused kids feel, it rings true. Unfortunately, as the plot develops, it shies away from exploring that discontent, in favor of demonstrating precisely the kind of naivetť and sweetness that one would expect to find in any teen romance. Even though Moodysson makes us aware of the fine line between adulthood and childhood, they are ultimately presented as an exciting, feel-good sensation, instead of a scary or daunting one. Itís not a dishonest move, exactly, but itís a disappointing one.

 

    Worse still, as Show Me Love moves on from being a courtship drama to a coming-out story, the two leads spend less screen time together. Since these two young girls have great chemistry, itís hard not to grow a bit restless waiting for their collective return to the screen. Itís true that all of the supporting performances feel natural, and Moodysson is astute enough to ensure weíre always aware of the motivations and feelings of each of his characters, but it still remains a let down that the central relationship isnít given more screen time. Some of Shoe Me Loveís characters, like a vindictive and petty girl in a wheelchair, are rare finds in a movie, but the majority of them are achingly familiar. Moodysson mines that familiarity to create immediate identification with these characters, which gives the movie a surprising ability to move even the viewer whoís aware heís being manipulated. Moodysson is a promising young director, who still seems on the cusp of his inevitable ascendancy to greatness. His superb use of pop music, his mastery of the zoom lens, and his unerring compassion are as present here as in any of his movies. Hereís to hoping that one day those virtues will find themselves attached to a film that fulfills the promises hinted at here.

 

62 

04-05-04 

Jeremy Heilman