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TV series review: Gösta

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- After a six-year hiatus, Lukas Moodysson is back in the director’s chair with a 12-part TV series for HBO Europe

TV series review: Gösta
Vilhelm Blomgren in Gösta

Any new work by Lukas Moodysson is going to be worth watching. His first television series, produced by HBO Europe, tackles many of the themes he has discussed in his seven narrative features, from 1998’s Fucking Åmål (aka Show Me Love) to his 2013 teen punk musical We Are the Best! [+see also:
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, which played at the Venice Film Festival. The 12-part series Gösta is a comedy that mocks Swedish niceties, featuring stories about refugees, broken families, failed relationships and the desire to do good, with a particular focus on teen lives.

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Vilhelm Blomgren's character of Gösta is at the heart of each of the half-hour episodes. Gösta has just transferred to the small village of Småland, where he is starting his career as a psychiatrist. Gösta wants to be kind to everyone he meets. He houses a Syrian refugee, Hussein (Nidhal Fares), tries to keep a long-distance relationship going with Melissa (Amy Deasismont) and lets his estranged dad (Mattias Silvell) move in – and later on in the series, his mum (Regina Lund), too. Gösta just wants everyone to forget their differences and get along, and this desire is what gives the TV show its comedy.

The hectic household seems to welcome a new character with every episode. The communal living arrangements start to resemble the 1970s commune featured in Moodysson's masterpiece Together (2000). The best and most divisive relationship is that between Gösta and his father, who seems to have realised that every decision he has made has been a bad one. His dad comes up with the crackpot scheme of rebuilding the outside shower, forgetting that he is a terrible handyman. Dad moves Hussein into the attic, a decision that Gösta rationalises as being for the greater good because it gives the refugee more privacy, whereas in truth, it's just another example of Gösta ignoring problems and not wanting to make tough decisions.

Gösta does not have much more luck at work. He gives his private phone number to a teenager, Saga (Clara Christiansson Drake), and argues with a colleague, Lotta (Elisabet Carlsson), about putting a rocking chair in his office, which is all just the tip of the iceberg. Moodysson uses workplace attitudes and bureaucracy to poke fun at Swedish approaches and practices. The show has many hand-held shots, which make the characters seem close and friendly, and adds a sense of realism, even during preposterous moments.

Moodysson, who hails from Småland himself, furnishes the programme with lots of lovely little details. During the helmer's six-year hiatus, Ruben Östlund (The Square [+see also:
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) has become the main man when it comes to exposing liberal, white attitudes. But Moodysson demonstrates that the old dog still has some tricks, and in choosing to make jokes through observations, rather than relying on one-liners, he creates a fun world that is easy to get lost in. It's also genteel, which hasn't always been the case with Moodysson's work, as let’s not forget that his credits include Lilya 4-Ever [+see also:
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and Container. Blomgren is the rising star of Swedish cinema, who can currently be seen in the US horror-comedy Midsommar, and is fantastic in the title role, always watchable. Furthermore, his nonchalant comportment ensures that the show never feels melodramatic, despite the numerous soapy elements.

Gösta was produced by Sweden’s Memfis Film International and HBO Europe Original Series.

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