1975. Stockholm. Elisabeth's (Lisa Lindgren) husband Rolf (Michael Nyqvist) has acted violently towards her in an argument, and so she has packed herself and their two kids off to her brother's hippie commune in order to escape. Elisabeth's brother, Goran (Gustav Hammarsten) is on the outside a perfect hippie diplomat; he pleases as many people living in the commune as he can. He even reluctantly agrees to have an "open relationship" with his girlfriend Lena (Anja Lundkvist), despite himself liking the idea of monogamy and the openness being totally Lena's idea. Elisabeth's two children Eva (Emma Samuelsson) and Stefan (Sam Kessel) initially find life in the commune terribly different; there's no television, no meat eating allowed and no Christmas presents. These are just some of the chaotic lives that inhabit the Together commune, and it isn't long before the naïve idealism that is on display is compromised with a starker reality.
Extremely bittersweet without a trace of sentiment, Together is a film that is difficult to dislike. It has all of the elements in place that could have rendered it a pretentious mess - the many characters overpowering the lack of a main protagonist; the overt contrasting of socialism against the invading capitalism and the retro-1975 setting with an Abba Soundtrack, and yet director Lukas Moodysson handles proceedings so deftly that he clearly will be one to watch for the future. This comes as no surprise when you consider that Moodysson directed Fucking Amal, a confident and assured piece of original teenage storytelling. Moodysson throws enough substance behind each character to ensure that none of them are underdeveloped, and this helps the film tremendously. One of the most interesting types of films are 'experiments' - ones that contains perfectly realised characters thrown in together just to see what they'll do with each other, and Together certainly evokes this sense of filmmaking.
One of the many charms of Together is the refusal to attack its subjects. It serves to both present the hippies and their commune as admirable in terms of their principles and yet it subtly ridicules their communist ramblings. It's therefore hard to detect which side of the argument both Moodysson and his film actually belong. On the one hand, the commune is shown at times to have a simplistic yet blissful harmony in its setup, and yet on the other hand it seems common sense when the threat of 'realistic' notions such as television and monogamy slowly creep in. One of the film's funniest moments involves Stefan and Tet (hilariously named after the Tet Offensive) playing with Stefan's Lego set. Tet says he isn't allowed proper Lego, and that his father intended to build his own pieces for him, but gave up after making only two! This sequence essentially encapsulates the naivete of simple idealism; The hippies are against Lego because it's a commercial product, and yet can't compete against it when it comes to appealing to the playful youngsters they are trying to safeguard from it.
Indeed, it's the younger characters of the film that are both the most interesting and contain the best performances. At times, the slightly ridiculous actions carried out by the hippies are perfectly made to look silly merely by the expressions on Eva and Stefan's faces. It'd even be fair to say that Eva's relationship with boy-next-door Fredrik (Henrik Lundström) is the most adult-like and touching relationship depicted in the film. The adults still shine however. Gustav Hammarsten is perfectly cast as Goran, a man who simply is too nice for his own good. Michael Nyqvist is also very good as Rolf, an almost pathetic loser who narrowly clings to the family that has almost deserted him, and yet through Nyqvist's acting, we sympathise and care for him.
Together is shot documentary-style by Moodysson and yet he still manages to give the film a colourful, quirky style. In appearance and tone, Together seems similar to Happiness and The Idiots, but without the cynical edge and darker cores, and it's honestly a better film without it. It balances the elements splendidly, and is a much more free-flowing example of filmmaking as a result.
Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1, the transfer exhibits fine imagery with great sharpness and clarity, although the documentary-style type of filmmaking brings with it some noticeable grain. Even so, this transfer is arguably the best presentation the film is likely to have, and full marks to Metrodome for churning out a better-than-normal DVD transfer presentation.
Presented in Swedish 2.0 stereo (with English subtitles), the sound mix is essentially mono but has a good sense of audio definition and is recorded at a good level of volume. The film is mainly dialogue based, which renders a 5.1 mix redundant.
Menu: A good animated menu, incorporating clips from the film and depicting the menu options in hippie-graffiti artwork, which is very in-keeping with Together.
Packaging: Presented in a transparent amaray, the cover artwork is a splendid and uplifting piece of artwork that perfectly ties in with the film. Chapter listings are placed on the reverse of the inlay card, and visible via the transparent amaray.
Lukas Moodysson Text Interview: Quite a good interview with director Luke Moodysson, presented as text on-screen, although some of the small text might be hard to read on smaller televisions or monitors.
Filmography: A brief text biography and filmography of director Luke Moodysson.
Trailer: The trailer of the film is presented in Swedish and reveals many of the film's more memorable moments.
An excellent, thought provoking and delightful film is given a fine presentation with a few mediocre extras. Together is the kind of film that will rub its abundant charm on you to such an extent that you won't care about the lack of extras anyway.