- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

''Together" playing at Visions Cinema and Bistro Lounge near Dupont Circle is the translation for the more playful-sounding Swedish word "Tillsammans." Whichever you prefer, the title refers to a commune of left-wingers in the suburbs of Stockholm in 1975.
The movie's opening scene is of a very precise day the day Spanish dictator Francisco Franco dies. The news provokes jubilation among the Tillsammaners. We discover that such high points are a rarity, since getting along domestically remains an elusive ideal.
In the course of the movie written and directed by Lukas Moodysson one family in the commune departs. This family is convinced that a move to the country would be more conducive to socialist virtue.
An estranged husband and wife, Lasse and Anna (Ola Norell and Jessica Liedberg) remain on the premises, along with their son, Tet. Anna has become a compulsively flirtatious lesbian. Lasse is being importuned by the house homosexual, Klas (Shanti Roney), who cross-dresses and aspires to be a happy homemaker.
Lasse and Anna have resumed an argument over Anna's preference for walking around naked when some new arrivals are ushered in by Goran (Gustav Hammarsten), the resident softie. He has agreed to shelter his sister, Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), and her two children, Eva (Emma Samuelsson) and Stefan (Sam Kessel). Elisabeth's alcoholic spouse, Rolf (Michael Nyqvist), a plumber given to violent benders, has driven her into flight.
Entering seconds after Lasse has dropped his pants to mock Anna, she politely comments, "It seems lively here." She doesn't know the half of it. Within hours she has become Anna's latest seduction target.
The embittered Lasse warns Elisabeth to lock up her daughter, an introverted 13-year-old. A threat of child molestation does emerge down the line, but from Goran's insatiable young mistress, Lena (Anja Lundqvist). Lena is initially enthralled by a foul-tempered young man named Erik (Olle Sarri), the fanatically radical son of a banker.
Eventually, Erik and Lena are discarded as intolerable loose cannons. He departs in search of harmoniously incendiary followers while she ultimately shatters the patience of Goran. Already tormented by Lena's rhapsodic summaries of sex with Erik, Goran first gets sick to his stomach and then gets even a breakthrough that triggers almost as much elation as the Franco demise.
Chastened and then deprived of her Erik raptures, a drunken Lena tries to put the make on Eva's only new friend, Fridrik, the pudgy and compatible 14-year-old next door. Anyway, Lena has to go, and later is better than never.
This summary probably makes the Tillsammans house look squalidly out of the question. Mr. Moodysson doesn't look at it that way. In some respects, he's more patient and forgiving than Goran. While setting the scene in ways that seem to maximize the potential for mockery and excruciating social comedy, he is ultimately on the side of the characters who hope to make the place a livable refuge. To a considerable extent, he seems to be doing it for the sake of the children.
He builds a superficially devastating case against the abusive Rolf, for example, and then relents, urging us to a recognize a core of genuine remorse that might enable Rolf to reconcile with wife and children. I'm not sure the turnaround is all that persuasive, in part because the episodes that deal with the repercussions of parental conflict and disorder are the most powerful in the movie. Given the emotional destination Mr. Moodysson is seeking, it's also kind of dirty pool to portray Lena as a pathological case.
Admirers of the admirable Swiss import of 1976, "Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000," a social comedy about an octet of eccentric communards in Geneva, made during the period fondly recalled and satirized in "Tillsammans," will recognize a worthy, retrospective soul mate. But the vintage picture also was more astringent and harmonious. All the characters seemed to belong.
You have your doubts about half the inmates of Mr. Moodysson's collective, which we seem to encounter during a purge that may or may not leave the unconventional home front in sounder and saner condition.
Despite these reservations, the movie is an entertaining and agreeable discovery. It has comedy scenes that somehow eluded filmmakers a generation ago, such as Stefan and Tet having a swell time playing games of torture, Chilean-style. One boy pretends to apply the electrodes as the other cringes. "Here come the shocks," exults the aggressor.
The boys begin to throw their weight around quite a bit. They insist on a TV set and the occasional carnivorous meal. Perhaps the funniest exchange occurs when Stefan is playing with his Lego set and Tet wistfully comments that his father started to build him a set, out of wood, but then quit after completing only two pieces. Clearly, revolutionaries can get their priorities way out of whack.

***
TITLE: "Together" ("Tillsammans")
RATING: No MPAA rating (adult subject matter, with occasional profanity, sexual candor and nudity; simulations of intercourse; allusions to homosexual seduction; an episode about a young woman with perverse designs on an adolescent boy)
CREDITS: Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson. In Swedish with English subtitles
RUNNING TIME: About two hours
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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