Thursday, 24 April 2014

Girls: "You & Me Forever"

The Danish coming-of-age drama You & Me Forever may or may not take its title from a Wannadies lyric (despite expectations, the song in question never appears, and the words appear onscreen only as a graffiti tag), but it shares certain characteristics with that genre of Scandie pop in which the peppiness of a rhyme can't entirely conceal the melancholy emotions welling up behind it. It's one more play for the highs and lows of teenage friendship and romance, weighing the exhilaration that comes from running carefree into the night with the hurt that follows whenever vulnerable young hearts get broken.

At its centre are a pair of sweet sixteen-year-olds: the slightly reticent, self-effacing Christine (Emilie Kruse) and the wide-eyed, more adventurous Laura (Julie Andersen): friends since childhood, these two are almost inseparable, sitting in class together and going to gigs together, and collectively fretting about the sex that is surely looming over the horizon for them. Everything changes with the arrival in town of Maria (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), a worldly, open-faced blonde whose father's business endeavours have previously taken her to New York and Berlin, and who therefore knows something about guys and girls alike. To Christine and Laura, ensconced in their quiet, sheltered middle-class lives, Maria practically is sex - and Hansen's steady gaze suggests both someone who's seen something of the world and the latent neuroses of one who's perhaps seen too much, too soon.

The fallouts and break-ups that follow are very much the stuff of the playground, but writer-director Kaspar Munk finds ways of getting them to fill the frame, taking his handheld camera in close to a young cast who've found fresh-seeming ways of working through this angst - perhaps in part because they're still working through it offscreen. (The distance between camera and characters comes to feel as small as that between the characters and the actresses playing them.) We could maybe accuse Munk of a certain prettification: these girls are as zit-free as the cast of any US teen drama, and the Copenhagen sunlight catches their hair just so; the harder edges flaunted by Lukas Moodysson's Show Me Love (a.k.a. Fucking Åmål) or Eliza Hittman's recent It Felt Like Love, to name but two examples, are absent.

Yet Munk's clearly more behaviouralist than sensationalist, and the psychology underpinning his fragile tissue of plot struck me as sound. He clocks the middling-to-low self-esteem of these girls, the way they eye one another up, looking for validation, and just as quickly become rivals as friends; boys, mostly an irrelevance here, nevertheless serve as catalysts with the power to change the way a young woman enters into adulthood. You & Me Forever is a thin slip of a film, but these 82 minutes are delicately handled and undoubtedly well-observed, never quite toppling over into the lingering over-emphases of the arguably prurient Blue is the Warmest Colour, for one. Munk affords his characters' actions a certain gravity and consequence, and every swoon and strop recorded here does, in the end, make sense.

You & Me Forever opens in selected cinemas from tomorrow.

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