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Film review: Show Me Love

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If you can, forget for a moment that "Show Me Love" has a gay-centric storyline or that the film doesn't come from the United States.

What's more important is that this low-key charmer from Sweden so perfectly portrays what it's like to be a gawky, unpopular teenager — especially one who's longing for love and/or acceptance.

In that regard, the film has surprisingly universal appeal. Again, those who can get over the fact that one character — two of them, in fact — may be gay will find it surprisingly poignant and unflinchingly honest.

Also, despite being hampered slightly by newcomer Lukas Moodysson's limited filmmaking skills, it indicates good things to come from all involved. And perhaps best of all, it features a very funny conclusion that gives the term coming out of the closet a whole new meaning.

The story centers around two teenage girls with drastically different social lives. Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is a 14-year-old bored with life in the small Swedish town of Amal. She's pretty and popular, which has her fighting off would-be suitors like motorcycle enthusiast Johan (Mathias Rust).

On the other end of the popularity spectrum, there's Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg), a moody 16-year-old who's had a hard time fitting in since her family moved to Amal more than a year before. Further complicating matters is the fact that she has a crush on Elin, which is becoming increasingly obvious to her classmates.

Their two worlds collide when Elin and her sister, Jessica (Erica Carlson), sneak out to go to a party but instead find themselves at an almost deserted birthday bash for Agnes. Using stolen liquor to get drunk, the two girls sneak into Agnes' room, and Jessica dares her sister to kiss her smitten classmate. And when she does, the results are surprising — Agnes finds herself more upbeat and cheery than before, while Elin, who's become preoccupied with thoughts about Agnes, has become the moody one.

But there are a few obstacles in the way of this potential romance, which includes not only the prejudices of their fellow students but also Johan, with whom Elin was involved for a brief time.

Of all Moodysson's storytelling decisions, perhaps the wisest is his decision not to make too many characters out as villains. Almost without exception, the characters here are likable, which, of course, makes the situations that much more interesting and realistic.

Even though not all the scene transitions are smooth and the camerawork (by award-winner Ulf Brantas) is surprisingly amateurish, neither can put a tarnish on the wonderfully unaffected performances by Dahlstrom and Liljeberg, who should become stars in their home country for this film alone.

"Show Me Love" is not rated but would probably receive an R for occasional strong profanity, violence (fistfights and scuffles), use of crude sexual slang terms, brief male nudity and glimpses of nude photos and a brief sex act. Running time: 89 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com