Becoming Astrid: Reviewed By Paula Ilonze
Typically, a biopic about a children’s author wouldn’t sound too interesting, even if the author is the creator of Pippi Longstocking. However, Astrid Lindgren’s life was filled with the perfect amount of titillating drama that made for an inspiring and intriguing film.
Becoming Astrid is truly a coming of age story about a wayward, teenage girl (played by Alba August) who became one of the most celebrated and iconic children’s book authors in history. Astrid let her imagination run wild, and nothing could stop that; not her strict, conservative upbringing or being raised in the hyper-conservative 1920s.
The movie began by showing Astrid’s home life growing up in Sweden: sitting restlessly in church, or working on her family’s farm—a bleak life that she never tried to fit into. Think, Little House on the Prairie. Her mother was constantly reminding her to behave and repress her creativity. But Astrid’s spirit couldn’t be tamed, and that didn’t go unnoticed.
Her creativity wound up landing her an internship at the biggest newspaper in town, and it’s during this scene at the paper that we’re introduced to Axel Blomberg. Almost instantly upon meeting Axel (played by Henrik Rafalesen) the editor, you can tell by the way his eyes gleamed when Astrid caught on to his riddle that sparks would fly between them; despite Astrid being a 16-year-old girl and Axel being a middle-aged man. Astrid was intrigued and enamored by the older, established man and eagerly threw herself into proving her value at work. But she proved that she was more than just a good employee.
In the midst of their lurid affair, Astrid eventually got pregnant. Astrid’s cunning curiosity and undeniable genius made Axel fall in love with her. Astrid isn’t beautiful, but her quirkiness and wit really make her shine. There was one scene at the beginning of the movie where she was at a family line dancing party of some sort, and all of the boys were overlooking her and asking prettier girls to dance. Rather than be ashamed or insecure, Astrid got up and danced her heart out by herself, not caring how she looked. Not many 16-year-olds would be so brazen. That’s the kind of girl she was.
In essence, this entire film is a tumultuous love story: love for her child, love for writing, falling in and out of love with different men, heartache when she had to let her baby stay with a foster mom, Marie, (played by Trine Dyrholm) for a while until they were able to bring him home, the struggle of acceptance between Astrid and her mother. It’s so real. It makes you want to know who Astrid was.
Alba August was an excellent choice to play Astrid. Her fierce determination jumps through the screen and charms the audience. She’s clever and feisty and all the things that were especially taboo for girls during that time. She’s a role model.
Directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen. Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson and Pernille Fischer Christensen. Cinematography by Erik Molberg Hansen. Starring Alba August, Trine Dyrholm, Maria Bonnevie, Björn Gustafson, Magnus Krepper, Henrik Rafaelsen, and Maria Fahl Vikander. A Music Box Films release.
Opens on Friday, November 23 in Los Angeles (Laemmle’s Royal Theatre) and New York (Film Forum)
Running time: 123 minutes.
Language: Swedish and Danish with English subtitles.