At the Michigan
1.5 out of 5 Stars
There is a misconception about film criticism that needs to be dispelled right now.
Not all critics are know-it-all snobs incapable of loving anything besides obscure, independently distributed foreign films. Critics can, in fact, enjoy movies like “Au revoir les enfants” and “Enchanted” equally.
But let’s look at “Everlasting Moments,” for instance. It’s got a classic snob-bait pedigree. A fragile little period drama from Sweden, it’s the story of a locked-in wife discovering herself through photography. Sweet, subtle and completely sedated, it should be prototypically moving stuff. It looks nice, the actors work hard and the film really tries.
But here’s the kicker: It’s boring as hell.
Don’t believe the hype here. Playing perfectly by the sappy pseudo-snob book, “Everlasting Moments” is uninvolving melodrama. The earlier description could or less sum up the whole thing. And there are dozens of other familiar melodramatic details in this film that will go unmentioned here.
Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen, “Laitakaupungin valot”) is in a rut. It’s early 20th-century Sweden, and Maria is married to the abusive Sigfrid (Mikael Persbandt, “Nu”). Over the course of several years, Maria secretly yearns to take beautiful images with her once-forgotten hand-held camera. Somewhere out there, an art student weeps for Maria. This film is not loving and tender. There is no hope in it. And those who admit how they feel are met with scorn.
Sigfrid goes from job to job, abusing his wife and children with enough time on the side to drink and conceive more kids with his wife. Maria has seven children, works numerous jobs and over several years has countless flings with professional photography. Of course, Maria’s husband objects to her artistic hobby. Yes, it’s a historical piece, but they could at least make Maria’s dismay more convincing. Inserts of single tears coming down Maria’s eye every 20 minutes? Please.
In the end, the point of the movie is to find those little moments of pleasure that can last a lifetime. Because that’s what pictures are supposed to do. Got it. And that totally absolves a marriage full of abuse and anguish. Groan. You don’t have to be a critic to get annoyed by that.
But obvious triteness aside, “Everlasting Moments” has its … moments. Maria’s oldest daughter Maja (played by two actresses, newcomers Callin Öhrvall and Nellie Almgren) is an identifiable voice of reason — a progressive young woman. Öhrvall is especially luminous — she exudes the confidence of a fascinating, intuitive and affected person. And that’s being generous to an otherwise spunky teen. Also, the Swedish way of life might prove interesting for the wannabe traveler. Photo plates, serendipitous picnics and cobbled streets make 1910s Sweden a nice work of antiquity. But they don’t make up for the rest.
Basically, “Everlasting Moments” goes to show that even arty, indie fare can fail. Granted, this isn’t “Garden State”-pretentious or “Let the Right One In”-unique. It doesn’t have to be. “Everlasting Moments” is generic and just … forgettable.