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  Tove Bloomin' Moomins
Year: 2020
Director: Zaida Bergroth
Stars: Alma Poysti, Krista Kosonen, Shanti Roney, Joanna Haartti, Kasja Ernst, Robert Enckell, Jakob Ohrman, Eeva Putro, Wilhelm Enckell, Liisi Tandefeldt, Emma Klingenberg, Juhannen Ryyhanen, Henrik Wolff, Dick Idman, Simon Hager, Kira-Emmi Pohtokari
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tove Jansson (Alma Poysti) has come through the war years in Helsinki more convinced than ever that she wants to be an artist, though what she is best known for are her cartoons and caricatures, while her more serious, heartfelt paintings are neglected. Her famous sculptor father looks down with disdain at the cartoons she generally makes her living with, and she feels as if she should be living up to his lofty ideals, the ideals of her pioneering artistic family, in fact, but while she moves in those social circles, she is finding personal satisfaction as hard to come by as fulfilling her creative side.

But it is her creations The Moomins, which she established as a comic strip, that will come to dominate her public persona, which may tell more about her than she intends... Except, weirdly, the Moomins did not dominate her biopic, despite that being what she was most renowned for, indeed aside from a few visual references and an extended sequence where Jansson crafts a Moomin musical for the stage, you could be forgiven for believing those cute little drawings and heartfelt, oddly eerie stories were not as important to her life as we had been told. Certainly the real Tove had been frustrated by her association with what made her famous, if not exactly rich, for she thought she had been making deeper art than that in her paintings.

But that's often the way with creatives who have a hit that they never took as seriously as the material the public tended to shy away from, therefore this seems to explain the tack director Zaida Bergroth took here. Unfortunately, what she replaces it with is a lot of scenes about Janssen's bisexuality, which may have been a hot button topic around the time this was released, but you do wonder if Tove would think that defined her as much, if not more than, the Moomins. In this portrayal being neither one thing nor the other in her sexuality seems to leave her lonely, but it was difficult to tell, since despite Poysti's best efforts the woman she was playing remained at arm's length, an enigma that you might have gotten to the heart of if, ooh, say you had delved into her books and comics.

Instead, this was as if a British biopic of Enid Blyton had concentrated largely on her sex life, which would be unthinkable considering her audience, but in Finland apparently all anyone wanted to know about their most celebrated children's author was who she was pairing off with. In this case, it is aspiring politician Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney) who offers stability, while theatre director Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen) offers the excitement and experimentation, yet for whatever reason those relationships do not work out, much to Tove's disappointment, though perhaps it is a problem she holds within herself. But perhaps not, again she came across as somewhat mercurial, even nebulous, when it came to pinning her down, leaving something of a hole in the middle of the picture.

Her family were merely sketched in, though you imagine her father was a big influence on how she saw herself, yet he is barely seen (we're not sure he enjoyed the musical, for instance), and time and again the film opts for the drama of Tove being let down in some way, either by herself or by those around her. It stops short of making her a tragic, pitiable figure, but it's not far off, but also leaves off anything that might be controversial, such as her commitment to politics, so no matter how charismatic the leading lady is, it's a bit like watching her knitting fog. It is classily presented, with a carefully cultivated air of the mid-nineteen-forties to the late nineteen-fifties, and the protagonist did age as convincingly as the surroundings were depicted in an anachronism-free environment as far as non-Finns could discern, but there are no surprises, unless bisexuality is a shock to you (and it may be to some viewers). Music by Matti Bye.

[Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Tove in cinemas 9 July 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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