Unmarried Couples” is a sharp, clever, dialogue-driven satire about relationship problems among fortysomethings. Local box office should be rosy for this fast and funny pic, but foreign sales will be tricky because much of the understatement and nuance in the writing may not translate to non-Swedish speakers.
Director-writer-actor Peter Dalle and his three co-stars previously collaborated on the popular TV series “Lorry,” which combined visual humor with edgy monologues and biting satire. Dalle’s other two feature films have suffered from sketch-like narrative structures, with no real central story; “Unmarried Couples” shows traces of the same fault, but it manages to emerge as a cohesive piece.
Marie (Lena Endre) and David (Dalle) have lived together for years; they’re childless, and constantly quarrel, only to make up the next morning. Their friends Sara (Suzanne Reuter) and Samuel (Johan Ulveson) are also longtime, and childless, partners — but they don’t quarrel. When conflict looms, Samuel buries himself in his jigsaw puzzles and Sara throws herself into her work.
Pic centers on the two couples during several months, and ends with the four going to a snowy cottage to celebrate Christmas, with disastrous results. In the latter sequences, the humor is very visual, in contrast to the stream of witty dialogue earlier. Dalle has a sharp ear and a poison pen, and is often merciless when bearing down on human weaknesses — to such an extent that the viewer is left wondering if relationships, or at least the ones under the microscope, are worth it at all.
Technical credits are all fine, and performances superb, especially by actresses Endre and Reuter. Both have been given fleshy, not always flattering roles, and ample opportunity to develop their characters. Pic’s chief letdown is an unsatisfying conclusion. A funny scene featuring actor Gosta Ekman as himself will fall flat with auds not familiar with his work.