Tove: Moomins creator’s postwar bohemia lovingly recreated

Conventional biopic of Tove Jansson is frustrating at times but there are things to admire

Film Title: Tove

Director: Zaida Bergroth

Starring: Alma Pöysti, Krista Kosonen, Shanti Roney, Joanna Haartti, Kajsa Ernst, Robert Enckel

Genre: Biography

Running Time: 103 min

Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 05:00


 This good-looking biopic of the bisexual Finnish illustrator and author Tove Jansson wastes no time in signaling pertinent details. 

Meet mother and father Jansson, the former a postage stamp designer, the latter a famous Finnish sculptor who disapproves of the doodles that become his daughter’s first book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, in 1945.

They’re a cultured bunch. “In my family, we always feel sorry for people who aren’t artists,” Tove later smiles at a bourgeois patron.

Boom. Here comes the second sequence: “Life is a wonderful adventure and one should explore all its twists and turns,” Tove (Alma Pöysti) informs the married socialist politician Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney) as she strips off in the sauna and embarks on an affair that lasts for several years.

We cut to another major player. Tove’s free spirit and plans to found a swinging artists’ colony in Morocco are compromised when she meets and falls for upper-class theatre director Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen). It is Vivica who persuades Tove to adapt an adventure featuring her most famous creation, the Moomins, for the stage. And it’s Vivica who inspires the creation of Thingumy and Bob.

This is a rather conventional artist’s biopic for an unconventional person and it’s a film that ends as suddenly (and frustratingly) as it begins.

There are things to admire, nonetheless. It’s a delight to encounter an upbeat out-and-proud true queer history from the 1940s and 1950s. Production designer Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth and costume designer Eugen Tamberg work marvels to evoke bohemian postwar Finland and the more daring surroundings of contemporaneous left bank Paris. Eeva Putro’s lively (if crammed) script and Pöysti’s spirited central turn ensure that the historical Tove isn’t obscured by the narrative machinations.