Something Must Break
Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark
When Sebastian meets Andreas for the first time, he knows they belong together. While Sebastian defies gender norms — flouting convention in his androgynous fluidity — straight-identifying Andreas becomes unable to accept his attraction to another man, as their relationship progresses. Struggling with his identity, Sebastian becomes increasingly determined to become “Ellie,” even if it means walking away from Andreas. Something Must Break brims with raw electricity as it explores questions of gender and sexuality with refreshing candor.
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★★★★★ review by Sally Jane Black on Letterboxd
I think a lot about invisibility. How we're not seen for who we are without having to say explicitly who we are. There are moments in this where Andreas' reaction to Ellie painfully illustrates that, where we are on the verge of being seen, on the verge of just a little understanding, recognition, validation, and yet those closest don't even notice, or take it the wrong way, or simply don't know how to process it. They ignore it, they filter it out, or it never even reaches their perceptions. That space is pure frustration. Seeing Ellie go through it turns me inside out.
★★★★ review by Terése Flynn on Letterboxd
Much have happened since 1999 when the movie Boy's don't Cry came out, but in some aspects nothing has happened. Not enough has happened. Something Must Break is a reminder of all of this. Saga Becker, the woman playing Sebastian in this movie, is the first transgender person to both get nominated and win a Guldbagge (the Swedish equivalence to an Oscar). And yes of course she won for best actress, or else it wouldn't had been a good thing. And her speech when holding that golden beetle was not a happy one, but rather a dark one. A speech that cut through the glossiness of the gala, and addressed the great importance of her winning this award. Not for her, personally, but for the whole community she represents.
I must admit, I was worried about three things when I decided that this was a movie I had to watch. The first thing being that the movie would be unbearably corny. The second thing being that it would suck as much as most Swedish movies do. And the third thing being that Saga Becker actually wouldn't be such a great actress that the Guldbagge jury acknowledged her being. Luckily none of my worries were justified. Something Must Break is a movie with great performances from the actors that doesn't compromise with the subject. If it does justice to the novel that goes by the name of You are the roots that sleep at my feet and keep the earth in place I can not say, but I can imagine that the movie feels less intimate and personal, even though there were no shortage of those things here.
There's not much of a plot in Something Must Break. Sebastian and Andreas meet in Vitabergsparken, a park where I personally have spent many summer evenings. They fall in love, but it gets complicated. It becomes destructive, but it also becomes beautiful. And the acting is amazing. I hope to see both Saga Becker and Iggy Malmborg in more movies in the future. And Nour El Refai doing a very very small part in the end of this movie felt suiting and fun.
Maybe it was my low expectations when it comes to Something Must Break that generates in me wanting to give it a high rating. Maybe it's because I, just like Saga Becker, believe that movies like this are really important. Maybe it is because it's actually a touching and awesome movie in most aspects. Whatever the reason is, it's most likely worth at least four stars for some reason or another.
★★★★ review by Cindy T on Letterboxd
Just a few notes from the Tribeca Film Festival. No time for a proper review.
Something Must Break is an LGBT film about a transgender woman. I really liked how the characters were presented, especially the main character Ellie. She isn't confused about who she is like so many transgender characters are in film. She is confident and secure with herself. The film focuses more on how she fits in the world with others. The film went a long way in helping me to understand transgender identification. There's a great dramatic scene in which Andreas, Ellie's love interest, tells her "I'm not gay!" and she replies, "Me neither!" Their situation is a conundrum.
Beautiful camera work. Strong acting. Well-developed and interesting characters. Quite a bit of penis.
★★★½ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd
After being saved from a sure and certain beating in a toilet block, Sebastian (Saga Becker) starts a intimate relationship with her saviour, Andreas (Iggy Malmborg). At first its nothing more than an obsession with the tissue she lent him, now stained with his dried blood, which she stores in her box of macabre remembrances along with a shiv and a bar of soap carved with the name of her future self, Ellie. When Sebastian does track Andreas down, he's throwing up in a local park. They share a spark nonetheless and start to hang out on the sly.
While it may not take trans drama in a new direction, Ester Martin Bergsmark's feature debut, Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder), walks its familiar paths with a refreshingly different mindset. In the hands of Becker, Sebastian/Ellie is a luminous force of nature. She's a fragile, loving young woman with a cocoon spun of steel. She's searching for love in all the wrong places, satisfying her craving for tenderness with anonymous sex and golden showers. She's no victim... unless she chooses to be.
Becker and Bergsmark don't hold back. They make sure you take their film on their terms. Spending a few minutes in Sebastian's life it is easy to see why she's so aggressively defensive. She can't blend in and she can't stand out. Her relationship with "not gay" Andreas gives her some respite but his insecurities and her self pity eventually get the better of them. It's a relationship that intrigues as much as it frustrates. It's worth persevering though, behind Andreas' stonewalling and Sebastian's violent capriciousness, there are some exceptionally tender moments.
Something Must Break is a brave adventure, swapping the genre's usual sincerity for some outré angst. Bergsmark's punk aesthetic frees him up to throw style at the film with particular abandon. The look and feel of the film snaps from lush Sirkian melodrama to gruesome, hard-nosed realism and the production barely bats an eyelid. Memorable amongst the film's startling imagery are two sumptuous homages to Lars von Trier's signature slo-mo work, which manage to push the envelope in drawing beauty from unsanitary situations, and mark Bergsmark as a visual stylist to keep an eye on.
Something Must Break may be a little scattered but its fresh-faced performances, its stylish-but-not-too-stylish design and its can't-be-fucked-preaching-to-you tone should have most celebrating what it gets right instead of focussing its missteps. Keen to see what Bergsmark comes up with next.
★★★★½ review by lgauge on Letterboxd
A deeply felt and uncomfortable tale of personal development amidst prejudice and heartbreak.
I quite liked the opening, in which we start with an extremely soft focus shot of the main character where one can only vaguely make out a set of heavily diffused headlights from a car, reducing this car to a set of moving, glowing discs, before the focus is very gradually deepened until the background can be made out clearly, both person and surroundings in clear view. Perhaps symbolizing the journey the main character is about to take, as she -- amidst struggles, adversity and setbacks -- finds the strength to increasingly leave her own isolated pocket of personal space and become part of the world around her as the person she dreams of becoming. There's also lots of nice use of slow motion. In particular, shots where part of the frame moves very slowly while the rest of the frame is frozen. A kind of disassociated mental state where despite attempts to escape the unpleasant passage of time, some things inevitably must continue.
It's nice to see a film where it's clear that the film itself as expressed through cinematography, editing and acting understands and empathizes with the depicted situation, even if many of the characters in the story do not. This is often a fine balance that too often ends up begging for the old depiction vs endorsement debate, but that is obviously not needed here. Having trans folk both in front and behind the camera obviously helps. Though it's less about apparent authenticity so much as it's about a kind of holistic sense that the work speaks to a sensibility that would be hard to achieve otherwise.
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