TOVE is a beautifully filmed, fascinating biopic about Tove Jannsen, the creator of the Moomins. We first meet Tove as young woman in bombed out post-war Helsinki, stifled by her famous sculptor farmer, so much so that she moves into a flat with no water or heat. Like her graphic artist mother, Tove has a talent for caricatures and cartoons, but has internalised her father's disdain for anything other than fine art. Nonetheless, she has courage enough to publish anti-Hitler cartoons, and to live her life in search of happiness and without concern for convention. Accordingly, when we meet her she is beginning what would be a lifelong friendship and a fairly long affair with a married Member of Parliament. And when she meets the talented theatre director Vivica Bandler, she doesn't hesitate to express her love for her too. What follows is a passionate love affair but also one carried out in post-war Finland where the risk associated with it and the pressure to marry leave both Tove and Vivica ultimately unable to live together. But - by the end of the film - a Tove empowered by her financial independence and success and increasing self-confidence - does find her lifelong love. Though it's testament to her talent for friendship that she remans close to both Vivica and her Arno, the politician.
Alma Poysti is deeply affecting as Tove Jannsen in a performance that is brave and vulnerable and joyous by turns. A good example of the power of the writing and performance is a scene late in the film where she starts dancing to a Benny Goodman dance number - it seems riotous and joyous but then turns almost violent and angry before ending in tears and an extreme close-up. I also very much admired how much the film-makers had done on such a low budget with sumptuously shot interiors and a fantastic swing infused score.
TOVE has a running time of 100 minutes. The filmed played Toronto 2020 and BFI Flare 2021. It opened in Finland last year but does not yet have a commercial release date in the UK or USA.