Together

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Together

It's 1975. The war in Vietnam is over. Franco is dead, and with him Europe's last stronghold of unabashed fascism. For the Swedish commune Tillsammans ("Together"), things are looking up. True, its members, though likeminded on general principles, occasionally disagree on specific issues, such as dishwashing, which from a certain perspective can be seen as an outdated bourgeois notion. And occasionally, freedom and openness can present its own problems, as when softhearted Gustav Hammarsten tries to respond gracefully to the news that his girlfriend (Anja Lundkvist) has just had her first orgasm, while with another man. Into their already crowded home, Hammarsten brings his sister (Lisa Lindgren) and her two children, all refugees from Lindgren's hard-drinking, short-tempered husband (Michael Nyqvist). Their arrival immediately unearths some of Tillsammans' already-simmering tensions, but its long-term effect raises deeper questions. How valuable is their organization, after all, if it can't change the life of a suburbanite like Lindgren? Is their environment really less cloistered than Lindgren's? And what's so bad about the hard-rock stylings of Nazareth's "Love Hurts," anyway? Writer-director Lukas Moodysson's first film, Show Me Love, suggested the arrival of a major new talent; his follow-up, Together, confirms it. His grippingly assured sense of style is only the first indication. Squeezing a miniseries' worth of characters into a relatively short feature, Moodysson does right by all of them, shaping the great ensemble cast into a series of fully formed characters whose deep flaws make them all the more sympathetic. His ability to find virtues to outweigh their accompanying shortcomings—conveyed in large part through the film's healthily developed sense of humor—is crucial in making Together work. While Lindgren and her children initially seem to have moved from one doomed arrangement to another, the film's belief that their new extended family can be made functional forms its heart, humanizing the left-wing movements of the '70s. Even if Together worked only as a memoir of its particular time and place, it would still be a success, but Moodysson has more in mind. His characters may have set ideals for themselves too lofty for any human to achieve, but even when they fail, the nobility of their attempts connects them to a noble principle of ancient vintage: the one that says an unexamined life is not worth living.