It’s Sunday morning and I’ve just been watching a terrific movie on Foxtel called “Every Other Week”. It’s a Swedish film released earlier this year under the title Varannan Vecka and it’s “oh so Swedish” in oh so many ways.
At the centre of the film is the close relationship between two brothers, Jens and Pontus. While Jens is happily married with three children, Pontus is happily divorced and enjoying the single life. At some point, however, Pontus has introduced Jens to an ex-girlfriend of his, and they’ve also become friends. Jens’ wife, however, cannot accept the relationship is non-sexual and confronts Jens about it. At this point, it’s revealed Jens’ wife had a one-night stand several years earlier, the admission of which leads to their separation.
I won’t go any further in relating the plotline, because it gets awfully complex. Suffice it to say, it’s a movie that explores just how complex human relationships can be, a theme which I suppose I understand more and more as I get older.
I mean, I knew from an early age that family life was more complex than just mum, dad and the kids growing up in a home together. As a child, I was perhaps a little envious of my peers who grew up in an environment like that, but I now relish the complexity of my own upbringing with multiple generations of carers all living together or close by. Not just mum and dad, but older sisters, uncles, aunts, all taking on a caring role, always treating me as an adult, I guess, rather than as a child.
And no, I wasn’t raised in a hippie household. In fact, I believe the nuclear family of the last fifty years or so will probably go down as a historical anomaly. I also think the complex relationships evident in the film, and that we’re seeing now in society more generally through blended families, seems to be taking us back to that era, not so long ago, when several generations lived together (or close together), and all took on a caring role for the children.
Or maybe I’m reading all too much into it? But even if I am, it’s still a good film. It’s beautifully filmed and well-acted and the script is very honest. In fact, this film helped reinforce what I guess I like about the Swedish character: the apparent deadpan honesty of their communication. And despite all the complexity resulting from multiple breakups, as Curtis Mayfield sings, “Move On Up”. the movie ends on a fairly uplifting note.
Wandering over to Cafe Nikki get myself a coffee, I kept looking around at the people on the street wondering about their relationships. Were they former partners catching up for breakfast or were they in current relationships? Whose kids are they with them?
And then I thought about the complexity of my own relationships and that of my friends. And in the back of my mind through all this reflection was a quote I remember from another Swede: Benny Andersson from ABBA. When asked about how members of the band had continued to work together after their divorces, he said something along the lines of “You and your wife split, and she gets with someone else, and you get married and have more children, and you just get on with it, it’s the Swedish way”.
I think it’s time for some ABBA.