Housewives and Socialists 

How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship

Together
dir. Moodysson
Opens Fri Sept 14
Fox Tower

Together is a compassionate Swedish film set in 1970s Stockholm and centered around a communal household that lends its namesake to the title. It is inhabited by a group of chaotic, young, hothead radicals who bicker with equal vehemence about socialism, homosexuality, and whose turn it is to do the dishes. Initially, they embody all of the general stereotypes of bohemian culture: the commie, the free lover, the lesbian feminist. However, this frantic, antagonistic vibe is disrupted when the older sister (Elisabeth) of one of the young men living in the house (Göran) moves in with her two children, having fled her husband after a violent fight.

As Elisabeth and her children adjust to a living arrangement in which people lounge around the kitchen without pants, grow pot in the yard, meditate, and swap lovers, the virtues of an open mind are charmingly depicted. Elisabeth is persuaded to stop shaving her armpits and starts switching her kids' pillows around to subvert gender-specific color designations. Meanwhile, she helps her brother admit that his "open relationship" is only breaking his heart, and gives the resident lesbian a makeover. The children riot for meat, bond over Legos, and struggle to withstand the stupidity and confusion surrounding them.

Rigid extremism and the inability or unwillingness to compromise are kiss-of-death qualities in this film. Together represents a hopeful view towards people and their ability to adjust and reform, although the degree to which this is accomplished somewhat detracts from an otherwise endearingly realistic portrayal. One of the most effective qualities of the film is the fact that the characters are well intentioned, yet human, and therefore flawed in their development. There are no real villains here, and the film executes consistently sensitive representations of the varying perspectives.

It's not as though Together covers much uncharted territory in terms of thematic content, and you will likely be reminded of films like American Beauty. Nevertheless, it achieves a rare poignancy through an affectionate treatment of its unconventional characters. Oh and god yes, of course ABBA's on the soundtrack.

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