The biopic “Tove” examines the youth of Tove Jansson, the queer artist who created the children’s fantasy series, The Moomins. The Moomins were a visually and narratively original concept, a sweet family of hippo-shaped trolls who lived with their friends in a valley, where all pursued adventure and evil. The series is by turns satirical, melancholy, and fantastical, and the Moomins made Jansson a beloved literary figure. How disappointing then that “Tove” has a stifling and rather incurable style about how Jansson developed or implemented his unique artistic sensibility.
The biopic begins in Helsinki during World War II, when Jansson (Alma Poysti) was a young painter, struggling to earn money and the approval of her sculptor father. Although her paintings were little recognized, her illustrations were noticed first by the leftist philosopher Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney), then by the bourgeois director Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen), both involved in long-term relationships. with Jansson. Most of the film is a tussle between the passion Jansson feels for the infidel Vivica and the comfort she receives from the reliable Atos.
The romantic turmoil unfortunately left little screen time for illustration, painting, writing, or other artistic endeavors Jansson pursued during his lifetime.
Director, Zaida Bergroth, offers glimpses of Jansson at work, but snaps from her sketchbooks flash, offering only superficial recognition that the drawing was made amid the flim-flam of half-hearted romances. The fuzzy cinematography is beautiful but dripping, and that general tendency to mushy melodramatic comes in an unflattering contrast to the crisp liveliness Jansson brought to the page.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters.