Review: Show Me Love

Show Me Love (its original Swedish title being Fucking Åmål) is a cult favorite. At least, I think it is. I don't remember how I heard of it, but it was in my Netflix queue, and it floated to the top and landed in my hands, like a warmed plate out the top of the stack at the front of a buffet line. Somehow, I lost the Netflix sleeve for the movie, so I put it in last night without the faintest idea what it was about. The tag line--Jag ska aldrig mer bli ihop med nån. Jag ska bli celibat--remained opaque to me, though I must admit, my Swedish is quite rusty.
The movie didn't begin with any menu, it just began playing, the video not anamorphic but some grainy letterbox confined inside a 4:3 box, all shot in over-saturated DV, the audio an unimpressive Dolby mix that sounded almost mono. Was this a student film I'd ordered by mistake?
Well, whoever recommended the movie to me was right. It's a gem, and not because of the plot I'll summarize thusly: a Swedish teenage lesbian love story. Okay, maybe that's too summary. Agnes, a social outcast, is gay and in love with Elin, the high school class vixen, who's beautiful and bored out of her mind living in the dull Swedish suburb of, well, fucking Åmål (I guess I knew some Swedish after all). Strange circumstances bring them together, but will their puppy love survive the cruel and intense pressures of conformity at school and home?
The movie is rough around the edges, and under too much scrutiny or extrapolation much of it doesn't hold up (how much of teenage and high school life ever does?), but within its boundaries it's a rush of the maddening, obsessive angst and compulsions of teenage emotional life, trying to find its balance. Listening to Alexandra Dahlström curse and scream in Swedish, you realize that undirected teenage anger is a universal language. There's a moment, a kiss, that is set up beautifully, and the payoff registers like an adrenalin spike. The movie has a sly wit: it includes a literal coming out of the closet (a water closet, that is). And even the subplots and intersecting lives of peripheral characters are painful reminders of various archetypal stories of high school drama. This movie doesn't seem especially eager to solicit our sympathies for anyone in the movie, and thus any that it does manage to elicit feels earned.
The actors, teenagers themselves, especially the two leads, are very natural, and the lewd DV cinematography contributes to the pseudo-documentary feel. There's a good chance this is the first and last Swedish teenage lesbian love story I'll ever see on film, and if so, I'll have fond memories of the genre, like having your first and only taste of gelato in Florence.