Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @tiffromania.
If Richard Linklater has left only one significant mark on the face of film—and let’s not deceive ourselves—it’s the effective eradication of the May-December romance for a young generation of filmmakers in favour of the 9-5. It’s rarely a month goes by without a new movie taking inspiration from the Before series, a swathe of new Jesses and Celines following—literally, figuratively—in their forebears’ footsteps. What Stockholm suggests is that we’ve reached a point of saturation: sophomore Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen has made with this movie not merely an emulation of the wistful wandering courtship film, but an examination too, a richly-layered and often even challenging investigation of the underlying ideas to this kind of screen romance.
…Sorogoyen has made with this movie not merely an emulation of the wistful wandering courtship film, but…a richly-layered and often even challenging investigation of the underlying ideas to this kind of screen romance.
The prognosis ain’t pretty, and if Stockholm is a success it’s in revealing to us the problematic perspective by which we watch wooing on screen. It’s no coincidence the characters are identified only by pronouns: Sorogoyen and his co-writer Isabel Peña have rendered a gendered reading of movie romance with an overarching universality to its observations. He, played by Javier Pereira as a doe-eyed darling is the chirpy, cocky alternate to Aura Garrido’s She, who brushes off his post-party flirtation with a firmness only the inebriated twenty-something male could fail to see for the flat no it is. It’s not without an ironic air of unease, then, that the perambulating pursuit begins: set in this sly chauvinistic context, this typical romance is revealed for the predatory power-play it is.
And yet, for all Stockholm’s success in re-evaluating the respective roles of men and women in pre-coital courtship, it’s an effort insistently undone by its own blind devotion to the ingrained notions it intends to rebut. Consider the characterisation of She, whose early departure from her friends on her first night out in an age is explained away with the disingenuous addendum of some under-explained mental illness. It’s rich for the film to rail against ideas it perpetuates itself: “no means no”, evidently, just isn’t enough for Sorogoyen, and there must be some deeper reason beneath her refusal to fall for the plucky passes of her insatiable pursuer.
Like the queasy, Rosini-scored sequence in which the deal, at last, is sealed, much of this movie is an ill-advised effort to play on perspectives it falsely presumes—worse, even forcibly extracts—of its audience. He is a charmer indeed, but only the fickle would fall for the efforts he makes to convince his quarry that he’s out for more than a one-night stand; if he’s a shyster, the movie is too, its every move as deceitful in forcing us into a situation we’re far from comfortable in committing to. So to the post-coital part two, set in the sobering light of the morning after and unyieldingly inefficient in making its mark beyond bare traces of insight any earnest audience will have long reached for themselves.
….for all Stockholm’s success in re-evaluating the respective roles of men and women in pre-coital courtship, it’s an effort insistently undone by its own blind devotion to the ingrained notions it intends to rebut.
A finale that makes the movie’s every erstwhile inadvisable decision seem positively ingenious by contrast is less the straw to break the camel’s back than a fresh bale flung atop the poor beast, just as reductive as the outlook it intends to oppose. Stockholm is the strange sort of creature that makes its point by missing it so entirely, by evidencing itself the attitudes it abhors. Maybe these midnight meander movies really are misogynistic as a matter of course. But that’s nonsense, plainly, and the simple truth is that making presumptions of our perspective has served only to expose Sorogoyen’s own. He has made a fascinating film here, if never entirely for the reasons intended; it is provocative and persuasive, and pretty risible in how.
Stockholm is the strange sort of creature that makes its point by missing it so entirely, by evidencing itself the attitudes it abhors.