Teen Spleen

The roller-coaster emotionalism that is teenage life is captured so naturally in the Swedish movie "Show Me Love" that you might mistake it for a documentary. This small but rousing movie struck such a deep chord in its native country that it gave "Titanic" a run for its money. Unlike most Hollywood teen movies, which are designed to flatter their audience, "Show Me Love" acknowledges how mean and nasty teenage girls can be--especially in a small town like Amal, where there is little to do except get falling-down drunk or spit at cars.

Writer-director Lukas Moodysson focuses on two girls at the opposite end of the high-school social spectrum. Blond, bored Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is the beauty every boy wants to date. Brunette, bookish Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) is the school untouchable, rumored to be a lesbian. She sits in class stealing glances at Elin, confessing her love for her on her home computer. On a dare from her friends, Elin kisses Agnes at a party for money. Shattered as Agnes is when she discovers the truth, Elin's sense of herself is more deeply threatened. She begins to sense her attraction to Agnes wasn't just play-acting. In a town where homosexuality is considered a disease, Agnes and Elin's predicament is fraught with peril. But the film doesn't need false melodramatics to achieve its power. With honesty, charm and an uncanny sympathy for all its characters, it takes us deep inside the awkward and exhilarating experience of first love. It's no mystery why the Swedes took this movie to their hearts.