This may come as a surprise to those who know how much I dislike content with subtitles because they are difficult to watch through my trifocal glasses, constantly raising and lowering my head to view the screen through an appropriate lens. But during the pandemic, as I searched for more stuff to watch, I slowly lowered my personal barrier and came to terms with the hassle, thus allowing myself to enjoy movies and TV shows I would have previously avoided. This entry is about two of those.
First up is a Swedish limited series called “Love Me” (“Älska mig” in its native language), about the members of a family of which Sten is the patriarch. He’s planning a luxury vacation in the Canary Islands as a 40th anniversary surprise for his wife, Kersti, who has been bedridden for two years after a car accident that changed their lives for the worse. Sten has tried to remain good-humored while Kersti has turned more and more sour, lashing out at everyone because of her condition.
Clara, their thirty-something daughter, is an obstetrician who has grown tired of dating apps that haven’t helped her find a man she likes. When we first meet her, she’s dressed nicely as she waits for yet another blind date to show up. When he does, he’s wearing sweatpants and an attitude that says he can’t be bothered, with unkempt hair around his bald head that she refers to as “clown hair.”
Rounding out the family is Peter, a twenty-something guy who would like to go college but spends most of his time either having sex with or being jealous of his girlfriend, Elsa, who works nights as a club DJ.
The incident that kicks the series into gear is the death of Kersti in the first episode. Her husband, daughter, and son all deal with the loss differently as it becomes a running theme through the first half-dozen episodes. But it’s handled very sweetly, and there’s a certain charm to these characters as they continue to try to find love while encountering new people and situations.
“Love Me” is the brainchild of writer/director Josephine Bornebusch, who stars as Clara. She has a witty touch and surrounds herself with a talented cast that made the show such a hit that its first season won the Kristallen Award (the Swedish Emmy) for best TV drama. Since then, Bornebusch has produced a second season and sold the American rights to Elizabeth Banks and others to make a pilot for ABC.
Meanwhile, the Swedish original is available beginning today on the streaming service Topic. I give it an 8 out of 10.
My other subtitled suggestion is “Rose Island,” based on the true story of an engineer named Giorgio Rosa who, in 1968, was fed up with the government of Italy. So, he decided to build a platform in the international waters off the coast of Rimini, Italy, and declare it an independent state. He made himself president so he could make the rules — or not, depending on his whim. Rosa’s friend Maurizio helped him sink the pilings and construct the platform, then declared himself a permanent resident, too.
Before long, Rose Island begins attracting attention. First, as a dance club for young people who get there by powerboat, thrilled to have a place where they can drink and party in the sunshine. When Rosa and Maurizio create passports and stamps for their new nation, they’re deluged with requests for citizenship from all over Europe and the US. But the Italian government isn’t as excited, particularly when Rosa applies to the United Nations — and later, the Council of Europe — for independent status.
There’s a thread of a love story running through “Rose Island,” and quite a few funny scenes of the older, staid politicians becoming more and more befuddled by how to handle this new entity that has popped up a few miles off shore. But it’s the concept and its leading man, Elio Germano as Rosa, that make the movie work.
I’m not saying “Rose Island” is a cinematic classic, but I had a lot of fun watching it, and give it a 7.5 out of 10. It’s streaming now on Netflix.