Watch Maria Heiskanen in Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments. Watch the small reactions as she plays Maria Larsson, a wife and mother in early 20th-century Sweden whose happilyever-after illusions quickly disappeared as her husband Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt) showed himself to be a womanizer and an alcoholic. Watch as she finds some measure of self-worth in exploring photography, encouraged by a kindly mentor (Jesper Christiansen). Watch closely— because if you don’t, you’ll miss the only real reason to watch the movie at all.
Little distinguishes Troell’s film from a hundred other tales of downtrodden women of an earlier era, and the men who done ’em wrong (and maybe also the nice guys who see their inner beauty). The narrative wanders over a decade through various touchstones—the rise of socialism, World War I, temperance movements— evolving into more a collection of memories by Maria and Sigge’s oldest daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall) than a compelling story. The focus drifts from Sigge to Maja to Maria as though the editor stepped out for a cigarette and never came back. Ah, but when the focus does drift to Maria, there’s reason to pay attention.
Left on her own by her ailing father after her first attempt to leave Sigge, Maria becomes a picture of resignation. And Heiskanen’s performance is lovely when, in isolated moments, Maria finds herself amazed that she has the soul of an artist, or that anyone might believe that her work has value. She captures pride and fleeting joy in a life short on real options.
That strong center allows Everlasting Moments some measure of success, even as the characters around Maria go through their scripted motions. Sigge in particular is little more than a pathetic, hypocritical brute until it becomes arbitrarily useful for him to be otherwise, while supporting roles serve almost entirely melodramatic functions. Maria deserves better, to be sure—both a better husband, and a better movie.
Maria Heiskanen, Mikael Persbrandt,