Directed by: #ZaidaBergroth
As part of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival 2021
The screen opens, an uplifting piece complements a dancing woman, joyfully free-spirited. Then a crash; the destruction of war around her. A polarising and tough time to be alive, but it’s no defeat for the spirit of Tove Jansson (Alma Pöysti). Sprawling her years as a frantic romantic and independent artist, this vintage-like biopic follows the life and love of Jansson, and the creation of the Moomin books.
A delicately warm and bright visual palette brushes the screen, and the characters like strokes from an artists’ pencil, filling scenes with life as if a great painting. The performances are respectfully subtle, but Pöysti brings forward the most depth and solidifies her concrete role as the flirtatious but strong Tove Jansson. We see her dabble in relationships with men and women, though not hugely developed which makes her tricky to understand. Perhaps that’s an intentional disconnect, but it makes the film stagger in it’s emotional field. It isn’t until an hour in that we start to see some change in the story, and even then it’s fairly formulaic, but it does hold some interest within its performances and beautiful atmosphere.
As biopics go, this treads familiar territory and while it’s pleasant to look at and appreciate, there’s really not much to it. There’s a lovely soundtrack to go with the visuals and a soft edit that takes its time, but there’s a lack of feeling and purpose. Tove features an array of wonderful performers but they’re not really given much to do beyond stand and talk, or laugh and love. A better film is in here, it just needed some more deep diving. We sort of skim through the years, from struggling artist to book launch and signings, but it feels like we got there too fast, yet simultaneously it stretched a thin narrative where nothing much else of note happened.
If anything, Tove makes me want to read about Jansson myself, rather than accept what we’re given here. It’s like an introductory piece that just barely scratches the surface of her seemingly interesting life. The way Tove throws us into various instances of romantic encounters and then very quickly pulls us out is somewhat jarring. Jansson skips around from Vivica (Krista Kosonen) and Atos (Shanti Roney), not really settling, and then, after creating a book, the film just… ends. All this to say, if you know of Tove Jansson prior to this film, you’ll probably enjoy Tove for what it is. But if you’re looking to learn a lot about the person behind the art, you won’t find much here.
BFI Flare runs from March 17th - 28th, for more info visit: