Cinema Signal:

. "Together (Tillsammans)"

From the producer of "Dancer in the Dark" (Lars Jonsson) comes this comedic drama about a group of societal rebels in 1975 Stockholm who choose communal, cohabitational living while they rail against the norms and obligations of main stream life.

The group, which calls itself "Tillsammans", translated as "Together" for the english speaking world, consists of appropriately disparate members. There is the divorced wife turned lesbian who thinks nothing of exposing her lower extremities during a kitchen meeting of the group; Elisabeth, the battered wife (Lisa Lindgren) and children Stefan (Sam Kessel) and Eva (Emma Samuelsson) seeking temporary shelter; her brother Goran (Gustav Hammarsten) a mollycoddling wimp who can't bring himself to think ill of anyone even while being taken advantage of by his roaming bed partner who tells him about finally experiencing an orgasm in sex with the political activist of the bunch; there is the gay guy lusting after the best looking single man in the group and, eventually, making headway.

Outside the communal house are the neighbors who take a special interest in the goings on there and their young son who becomes enamored of Eva, the battered wife's daughter, in a nicely developed coming-of-age moment in their lives. Plus, in what is perhaps the story's most effective thread, there's much focus on Rolf, the husband-batterer (Michael Nyqvist), a plumber who deeply regrets his drink-inspired violence on his wife. By the end of the movie, we're convinced of his deep love for his wife as well as his better nature as he seeks and apparently wins forgiveness, though with the stern requirements of her new awareness brought on by exposure to the independent thinking of her commune mates.

Though it starts somewhat slowly as characters and situation are introduced and varying levels of interest in them developed, the movie plays well despite the foreign (to an American) language and points of reference. There's a universality about the emotion-laden experiences and quests of each character, leading to broad identification and considerable comedy as passions are played out. All in all, it's fun for an audience willing to be patient with the setting and the number of story arcs.

There's a certain lack of sophistication in the writing but not so much that it doesn't get its points and messages across with a nice window into the Swedish society that spawned such a group. Director Lukas Moodysson's sensitive understanding of his array of characters, adult and children alike, is penetrating. With a firm grasp on his story, good casting and a sound track by ABBA, he makes budget limitations unimportant.

Rated B, for Balanced.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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