Tove (2021)

Director: Zaida Bergroth

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Certification: 12A

Starring: Alma Pöysti, Krista Kosonen, Shanti Roney, Joanna Haartti, Eeva Putro, Jakob Öhrman, Robert Enckell, Kajsa Ernst, Wilhelm Enckell

Set in Helsinki, this biopic begins with the war nearing its end. Within the confines of a bomb shelter, Tove Jansson (Alma Pöysti) tells children the enchanting tales of Moomin creatures she created. While focusing on her artistic dreams of painting, the stories take a life of their own and bring fame and fortune. Along the way, she meets theatre director Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen) who ignites an all-consuming love in her and sets her on the path to discovering her own identity.

Director Zaida Bergroth digs beneath the figure of Tove Jansson, showing how she tried to persevere as an artist only to feel deflated by the rejections. In the midst of this, she never realised the legacy her doodles would leave behind, as she drew upon her personal life to bring these creatures resembling the hippopotamus to life. The stories initially told in newspaper comic-strips aimed at children, Tove claimed they were just a way to make money while working on paintings, a more socially acceptable outlet to claim accurately reflects her. Alma Pöysti gives an excellent performance, capturing how the title character put her all into her work, no matter if it was paintings or her comic-strips.

While Moomins may be a key part of the subjects life, the film isn't ultimately about their creation. The key story comes from Tove's love-life as she falls for the beguiling Vivicia. It brings to mind Portrait of a Lady on Fire, as the pair know the relationship cannot last yet they long to be together, and one feels the push and pull between the duo's shared feelings. Inhabiting the role is the excellent Krista Kosonen, who pulls off another spellbinding performance after her masterful turn in 2020's Dogs Don't Wear Pants.

Written by Eeva Putro, the screenplay seems to have trouble juggling some key parts, rushing through some storylines to the point one wonders if a scene has gone missing. This is true of Tove's turbulent relationship with her father, a well-renowned sculptor. He doesn't view his daughter's drawings as art, causing the pair to often be at odds with each-other, and this story-line can feel forgotten about for a time. Despite this, it doesn't lessen the impact of the emotional climax, just like the negatives don't lessen this impactful biopic of the famed artist.

Tove is in cinemas from 9th July