Show Me Love (or Fucking Åmål) (director: Lukas Moodysson) is a multi-award winning film and a brilliant example of that coming-of-age teen drama.
We see Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg), still considered ‘new’ to the school, a sad, lonely outsider who is hopelessly, desperately in love with Elin (Alexandra Dahlström), the girl whose looks and sass have earned her a place in the popular group, Agnes is barely on her radar. It seems like the only thing the girls have in common is their longing to break free of the small town environment of Åmål, where when something’s in trend, it takes so long to get there, that it’s out all ready.
The movie starts with Agnes writing out a list of the things she most wants ‘1, Not to have a party. 2,for Elin to see me. 3) for Elin to fall in love with me.’ It is Agnes’s birthday, her mother has forced Agnes into having a party to which she has no real friends to invite. The party, like her life, is another disappointment to Agnes until Elin, and her sister Jessica, turn up. The more popular girls are there expecting free booze and a laugh at Agnes’s expense. Knowing the rumours about Agnes’s sexuality Jessica dares Elin to kiss Agnes which she does before she and her sister run out of the house.
Immediately Elin feels guilty about her actions but the pair head off to another party, a ‘cool’ party, to get more drunk. The scenes are this party aren’t actually cool or glamorous, they show than disenchanted element of life that these parties always seem to fall into – people drunkenly comparing mobile phones, puking in toilets, sleazy come-ons – the perfect environment for Elin to dwell a bit on what she’s done. That night, that kiss, triggers something which forces both girls to confront their own personalities, mindsets and decisions they must make.
Elin is intrigued by Agnes, who she deems ‘weird’. Elin fell into her friendship group by chance rather than making an active effort to be cool, the attitudes of her friends seem to increasingly grate on her throughout the film. Agnes’s solitude and homosexuality is what both attracts and repulses Elin who knows the social currency being popular allows her.
What makes Agnes and Elin such interesting characters is they both display moments of selfishness and irrational behaviour, you do not costantly root for then. I spent a part of the film thinking about how egocentric Elin appears to be but you come to realise that she is just a teenager. We all have moments where we say things or do things we’re not proud of and, as part of her character development, Elin experience remorse and shame. Likewise Agnes behaves cruelly towards the only girl in school who interacts with her but we know it’s because she is miserable and she remains our hero.
The film shows human nature at it’s most malicious but that there is hope in all of us as well. And whilst homosexuality is frowned upon in Åmål, that is not the main issue of this film; it’s about that turbulent time in adolescence. There are themes of friendship, love and acceptance in so many ways.
Show Me Love was released in 1998, at the height of Titanic-mania, and it topped that film at the box office in some countries. It remains a cult classic because it’s honest and so relatable – trying to work out where you fit in is something we all have to deal with, not even just at puberty.
I’d say it’s definately one to watch.