Show Me Love is a 1998 Swedish film directed by Lukas Moodysson. Its original Swedish title is Fucking Åmål. The film follows the lives of two seemingly disparate teenage girls who begin a tentative romantic relationship. The film first premiered outside Sweden at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival under its original title. According to Moodysson, the problem with the original title started when the film was Sweden's candidate for the Academy Awards, though it was eventually not chosen as a nominee: the Hollywood industry magazine Variety refused to run an advertisement for a film with that title, and thus American distributor Strand Releasing asked for a new title to be chosen. Moodysson took the new title from the song at the end of the film, by Robyn. Distributors in other native English speaking countries then followed suit. For writer Moodysson, it was his directorial debut in a full length film. Starring in the lead roles were Rebecka Liljeberg, as Agnes, and Alexandra Dahlström, as Elin. The film received an overwhelmingly positive reception and won four Guldbagge Awards (Sweden's official film awards) at the 1999 ceremony.
To get an idea of Show Me Love, take the average teen movie, subtract plot holes, add quality acting, substitute a lesbian couple, translate to Swedish and subtitle. The result: a simple movie that the art establishment adores for the simple reason that it is a Swedish Lesbian Romance. The film is called bold due to its original title (Fucking Åmål), and the critical establishment throws flowers at its feet.
Now I may be a critic, but I am not part of the establishment. Yet I will still throw flowers at the feet of Show Me Love. Why? Not because its Swedish (although I do love the two Swedish films I have seen). Not because it’s a lesbian flick. But because, pound for pound, Show Me Love is as good of a Hughesian romantic comedy that I have seen since Can’t Hardly Wait.
Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) has lived in the tiny town of Amal two years and is still the new girl. Detached and distant, no one but her Macintosh computer knows that she desperately longs for Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom), a girl who is popular and rumored to be a slut (although, following Hughesian formula, she’s actually a virgin). Her parents make her have a birthday party, which only draws one visitor (a girl in a wheelchair, who Agnes proceeds to berate and insult in one of the funniest scenes of the movie). Elin and her sister Jessica (Erica Carlson), bored with the fact that they is no party in Amal and disheartened that Raves have officially been placed on the ‘out’ list of a popular magazine, head over to Agnes’ party, where Jessica pays Elin twenty crowns to kiss Agnes.
Of course, Elin slowly comes to realize her lesbianism, and of course, all end up happily ever after. If you can stand the subtitles, you will have yourself a near perfect film.
So what’s wrong with it? Well, as seems to be a trend in films from that area of the world (Danish films are only a notch better), Show Me Love has terrible lighting and camerawork. Lukas Moodysoon uses natural lighting indoors, which results in a major case of eyestrain. The last Swedish film that used this technique that I saw was Mifune, but Mifune had the excuse of being part of the Dogme Collective, where as Show Me Love is not a Dogme film. Also, Director of Photography Ulf Brantas tends to zoom in and pan too often, as if the entire crew were too lazy to spend some time at an editing table cutting from one reel to another.
Furthermore, Show Me Love‘s editors make the mistakes of including several scenes that could have well been deleted. For instance, when the happy ending comes, the two characters enter into a discussion about the proper way to make chocolate milk. Note: this is after the perfect ending line ‘This is my new girlfriend Agnes. Now if you’ll excuse us we’re going to go and fuck.’ This line adds an artistic sense with the matter-of-fact lesbianism that Agnes has always embraced and that Elin eventually embraces. It also provides a nice joke to part on.
And then they talk about milk.
Still, Show Me Love is incredibly fun, incredibly entertaining, and worth watching in all respects. Not to mention its about the only time in your life where you’ll be able to go see a movie that has ‘fuck’ in its title without going into the adult section of your local videostore.
Show ‘em some love.