To Love Someone



Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO -- Characterized by an often wrenching, occasionally frustrating sense of dread, "To Love Someone" suggests that abusive relationships are impossible to escape even in the best of circumstances. Convincingly acted and compelling despite its flaws, the film could be well-received in art houses but will have to struggle against its uninviting subject matter.

The plot's sad triangle consists of Lena and two husbands: her ex, Hannes, who beat her so severely he was imprisoned, and Alf, the bearish, adoring older man who has finally brought some stability to her life.

The film reveals immediately that this stability is about to end, with a bracketing sequence in which Alf visits the park where Lena's ashes were scattered. This foreknowledge gives the action a tragic inexorability, with viewers fairly certain they know what's in store; the inevitable result is more difficult to consider since no one involved wants it -- not even Hannes, who has confronted his demons in a prison therapy program and sincerely intends to avoid all contact with Lena upon his release.

In fact, their eventual reunion isn't his fault. Lena happens to see Hannes on the street shortly after he is paroled and, terrified that he's stalking her, decides to spy on him. While the audience silently begs her not to, she takes a step more -- confronting him angrily, even as he begs her to stay away. Without meaning to, she goads him, starting a no-win cycle in which each struggles to prove the trouble between them is dead and buried. Within days, Lena finds herself unable to stay away from him.

Her growing compulsion is difficult to watch, and Sofia Ledarp makes it pathetically believable, forcing the audience to confront a battered-wife syndrome most viewers probably find difficult to believe in the real world. "I don't know what I'm doing," she cries repeatedly in one wrenching scene. Her behavior alters the men who love her, as well -- particularly Alf, whose incomprehension drives him to the brink of violence.

The course of Lena's behavior is gripping, even when we're unable to follow it as a psychological path. As things develop, though, screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson feels the need to put viewers off balance, hinting that Lena's fate isn't going to play out quite as we expect. Some of the possibilities opened up are plausible, but in the end this turn feels cheap and a little dishonest, particularly given director Ake Sandgren's choices (like using Vivaldi instead of a more conventional heavy-drama score) to focus on the cast's fine performances rather than on suspense-minded contrivances.

No Distributor
Nordisk Film Production Sverige AB
Director: Ake Sandgren
Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Producer: Lars G. Lindstrom
Executive producer: Kim Magnusson
Director of photography: Erik Molberg Hansen
Music: Antonio Vivaldi, Magnus Jarlbo
Co-producers: Film i Vast, Sveriges Television AB
Editor: Asa Mossberg
Lena: Sofia Ledarp
Hannes: Jonas Karlsson
Alf: Rolf Lassgard
Mia: Camila Larsson
Bjorn: Gustav Hammarsten
Hasse: Mats Blomgrenh
Running time -- 91 minutes
No MPAA rating