Fucking Åmål (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I never really believed in fucking Amal at Christmastime, but I did enjoy slipping it to the Night Visitors.

Actually, this is another in the long list of good films which were madly overhyped in the desperate search for a good movie this year. It is a very honest portrait of two teenage girls coming to grips with atypical sexual orientation in a small provincial town in Sweden. ("Why do we have to live in fucking Amal?") It is in Swedish.

The Region 1 DVD has English subtitles, but it is translated into UK English with hilariously incomprehensible Region 1 results, and North Americans may have more luck with the Swedish. An example: they translate the Swedish word "chips" - an expression the Swedes took from America to begin with - as "crisps". Say what?

Brits, of course, call those things "crisps", but North Americans do not. The only way we can figure it out is to listen to the Swedish, because chips in Sweden are chips in the USA as well! (The word "chips" has a different meaning in the UK. It's those soggy French fries that they eat with fish)


no female nudity. brief male nudity from extras in a shower scene

The story: one of the girls knows that she is a lesbian, and is simply waiting for an opportunity to let it free. The other girl is pretty and popular with the guys, and has a nice boy who is her steady, but she suspects something is wrong. As the film goes on, the dissimilar girls come to admit their feelings for each other.

Along the way, there is a lot of pain. Parties where nobody shows up. People hurting their peers. Parents who don't understand, and parents who try to understand with painful or embarrassing results.

DVD info from Amazon.

It's a poorly mastered DVD with plenty of motion blur and interlacing problems. In addition, the colors look too green (though that may be the print, not the DVD).

Letterboxed widescreen 1.85:1.

It's a very fine small movie, a good coming-of-age story that is so painfully honest that it will make you squirm. It is good to see a film with moments so close to the bone.

But it's not in the top 10 of this or any year, and certainly not up there with the best 250 movies ever made.  Well, maybe it could be considered one of the stronger scripts, but that's only a small portion of a film. Imagine Casablanca filmed by your dad in the backyard, and you'll have the idea. It is in fact a simple and touching story, but it is poorly filmed: oversaturated, grainy, drab, and is virtually in green and white. In fact, your dad's home movies are probably better. Oh, it's also paced pretty slow, and it has a completely anti-climactic final scene.

But it could be a great movie if, for example, re-filmed by Atom Egoyan.

It is, however, very high on my annual Top 10 list of Swedish lesbian coming-of-age movies.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: between three and three and a half stars.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it off the scale at 8.2. Apollo users 80/100.
  • With their dollars ... never shown on more than 3 screens in the USA, it took in less than $200,000. I suppose it took in about $5-10 million in Sweden.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-.

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