Published Sep 15, 2009Together has two major things going for it: outstanding performances from both lead actors and absolutely no hesitation in making its lead character detestable. While this latter narrative balance may throw off many viewers, given how awkward it is to loathe a victim, it is what makes the film stand out from the many other grieving family dramas of this ilk.
Before the opening credits roll, Kristine and Roger (Evy Kasseth Rosten and Fridtjov Saheim) enjoy a round of bowling with their son Pal (Odin Waage), wherein dad proves the friendly but irresponsible party to mom's upward maturity. Jump through a dinner and into a car where Kristine is killed unexpectedly in a roadside accident.
While 12-year-old Pal handles his grief, remembering his mother respectfully, necessarily moving forward, Roger, blaming himself, demonstrates increasingly irresponsible behaviour, recklessly drinking and picking fights with pizza deliverymen and drunken bar patrons alike. The devastation comes from a boy's desperate need for a father who cannot get himself together as a role model, eventually doing some simultaneously horrifying but strangely pragmatic things to himself and his son.
What gives the narrative both its struggle and success is the relentless progression of calamitous actions, leading to conflicted feelings towards the aggrieved. Roger's pain is indeed logical but his inability to cope for the sake of his son is downright enraging. This obviously doesn't make the film any less successful in its aims but a hammy defining moment and an occasional lack of emotional clarity keep Together from being as great as it could have been.
Minor faults aside, Jordal defines himself as Norwegian filmmaker to watch, and both Saheim and Waage show impressive emotional range. Fans of European drama will find a sharp, uncompromising portrait of grief worth checking out. (Mirmar)