Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Tribeca Film Festival | Review | Something Must Break | ***1/2

[This originally appeared on]

SOMETHING MUST BREAK (Original Swedish title: Nanting Maste Ga Sonder) is an astonishing film.

It tracks the progression of a relationship between two unlikely individuals with a rigid honesty that is a little reminiscent of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR. Sebastian works in the backrooms of a furniture store in Stockholm. Andreas comes from a more affluent background.

Publicity still for SOMETHING MUST BREAK
Publicity still for SOMETHING MUST BREAK
One day, as bullies taunting Sebastian for his androgynous looks are about to get violent, Andreas steps in to help. Gradually the two, both in their early twenties, start spending time together with the start and sputter rhythm of individuals not entirely sure of where they are headed. As the relationship progresses to something deeper and physical, Andreas is caught off guard, unable to reconcile the significance of this development with his otherwise traditional life. He doesn’t even consider himself gay. Long unmoored with regard gender identity and comfortable with it, Sebastian too suddenly finds himself starting to gravitate toward the possible emergence of a female persona of himself: Ellie. And the all-consuming connection between Andreas and Sebastian inevitably takes a dark turn. Think of this as a stark, spare version of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.

This could have been a preachy film. But it has no interest in polemics or political statements. Like its central character, the film is not too concerned about labels that viewers may ascribe to it…too uncomfortable, too gay, too extreme. It simply tells this specific story without filter, without condescension, without judgment. Where most films, either out of tact or politeness, stop when a character closes the door, this one walks in behind the door with the character. Sebastian makes plenty of terrible choices and mistakes. The film (based on a novel of the same name) has no intention to edify Sebastian or turn this individual into some sort of role model, and in doing so actually humanizes him. I do not know that I have seen a better on-screen treatment of a person forging through a gender identity crisis. What is particularly commendable is that while Sebastian is the more atypical character, the film is as much interested in Andreas as it is in Sebastian. And one can argue as to which of the two goes through a greater transformation during the course of this story.

Publicity Still for SOMETHING MUST BREAK
Publicity Still for SOMETHING MUST BREAK
I give this film credit simply for being what it is about. And being in-your-face unapologetic about it. It may be a film about the first connection between a man who wants to be a woman and another man who starts to question what it is to be masculine. But in its honesty, it demonstrates the universal struggle of any person who learns to come into their own, and the pain as well as the grace of the process.

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