TIFF 2023 Review: A Once Tight-Knit Commune Picks Up Loose Threads in Lukas Moodysson’s “Together 99”

Lukas Moodysson films should be an event unto themselves when since his most prolific period at the turn of the century where he made a name for himself internationally with films such as “Show Me Love,” “Together,” “Lilya 4-Ever” and “A Hole in My Heart” in relatively quick succession between 1998 to 2004, the Swedish filmmaker slowed down and it’s been a decade after the charming adaptation of his wife Coco Moodysson’s comic book about a riot grrl band “We Are the Best!” However, it becomes one sly joke of many in “Together 99” that the director who has resisted being boxed in by any expectations of his work, capable of films that are abrasive as endearing, has made a follow-up to his most beloved film feel like the antithesis of a big deal, corralling much of the ensemble — save for the late Michael Nyqvist — from his lighthearted 2000 drama about a 1970s commune in Stockholm for a laid-back reunion where about the same number of years have passed on screen as off.

“Life goes on,” as Moodysson hand writes on a cheeky title card towards the end of “Together 99,” but there is in fact plenty worth stopping to savor as the director peeks in on the party that Klasse (Shanti Roney) and Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten) throw after the latter confesses to having an erotic dream about their former housemate and his ex-girlfriend Lena (Anja Lundqvist) proves worthwhile. The two are all that’s left of the original commune that still lives together, but Klasse has a birthday coming up and sends out invites, reassembling much of the old gang as well as Peter (David Dencik), who seems to know everything about everyone, but those assembled only know as the guy who brought the wine and cheese. For better or worse, Lena shows up capricious as ever with a quiet teenager (Clara Christiansson Drake) adorned with a permanent scowl that she asks everyone to refer to as “friend,” leaving questions about whether she’s her daughter or not.

There’s another party going on down the street that ultimately pulls away at least a couple guests, but sticking around Klasse and Goran’s bespoke soiree has its rewards when what initially comes across as loose talk sharpens into keen observations about how the once-idealistic group brought together by shared values have drifted apart as a certain resignation set in with how much they could achieve in their lives and in their relationships with one another as the constant pull of life threatened to take them in different directions all on its own. Traces of the fiery activists they once were emerge throughout – Erik (Olle Sarri) puts up quite a fight against that cutthroat capitalist Pippi Longstocking for the gold coins she would always carry around, but he finds his argument is mostly for his own benefit as others are willing to engage only for so long, and when Lasse (Jonas Karlsson) brings by his new partner Mirjam (Julia Heveus) to the chagrin of his old one Anna (Jessica Liedberg), a few drinks late in the evening reveal that Anna’s maturity regarding the situation has been largely a front.

Rather than resembling either “The Big Chill” or “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” which it offers a fascinating parallel as a reflection on a counterculture that becomes subsumed by the mainstream, the opportunity to revisit the former friends and lovers sees Moodysson, with his cagey camerawork catching every eye-roll and bewildered reactions, stumbling into epiphanies on aging and generational transference without ever feeling as if he’s putting too fine a point on things. If the director concludes that living in the moment is the best way to spend one’s time, he doesn’t waste a second arriving there, offering an engaging hangout movie made profound by the years it took and the enduring bond of a cast and crew to make it possible.

“Together 99” will next screen at the BFI London Film Festival on October 11th at 6 pm at the BFI Southbank, NFT 1 and on October 14th at 12:30 pm at the Vue West End, Screen 5.

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