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CPH:DOX 2020

Review: Long Live Love

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- Part cancer drama, part Gilmore Girls, Sine Skibsholt’s tender Danish documentary shows affection with an attitude

Review: Long Live Love

It’s hard to capture the beauty and – especially for the accompanying parties that happen to be in close proximity – the excruciating pain of adolescence, precisely because of its dual nature, with exciting moments coming right after a terrible spat, and with the “I love yous” followed by ardent promises to hate forever and ever. “When a child reaches adolescence, there is very apt to be a conflict between parents and child, since the latter considers himself to be by now quite capable of managing his own affairs,” argued Bertrand Russell, that big understater, and yet Danish filmmaker Sine Skibsholt ventures right into the eye of the cyclone in Long Live Love, world-premiering in CPH:DOX’s main competition. And she comes out of it mostly unscathed.

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Which says a lot for her skill, as it’s not just the usual eye-rolling, “Mum, please” business that Skibsholt takes on in the film. It’s dedicated to a girl and her parent, both forced to face not just their issues, but also the big ‘C’ – an illness that now-teenage Rosemarie was first diagnosed with as a child. In and out of debilitating treatment, she is determined to rebuild her life in a new school, where, as she states, nobody knows her as “the girl with cancer”, so she may just as well be a rebel instead. But as Rosemarie gets stronger, her mother struggles to get out of bed.

It’s almost as if these two needed to strike and keep some kind of odd balance, with one stepping up when the other is ailing, the rest of the family looking on. They need each other while also trying to establish their own space, with Rosemarie literally kicking her mother out of a hospital bed at one point. It’s an interesting bond, made even stronger by the fact that her mum had her young, as is explained here, with the two going full-on Gilmore Girls at times.

Perhaps that’s also the reason why the whole film, shot by Skibsholt as if she weren’t even there, not for a second, feels so darn youthful, as selfies and Instagram captions meet archive family footage. For a story overshadowed by such a serious threat, which is never quite gone, at least in her mother’s head, it’s also full of attitude: of pink Fenty slippers brightening up white hospital wards and future plans announced right there on a board. “Plans – getting well,” Rosemarie scribbles on it. “Duh?”

Narrated by its protagonist, with everything that entails, it’s easy to imagine Long Live Love turning into another list of (understandable) grievances. But ultimately, it’s not so much about Rosemarie’s sickness, with the mother-daughter relationship leading the way as Hospital Day melts into Wedding Day, and then Bad Day. “Now she cooks rice while wearing sunglasses,” says her mother while on the phone, probably already knowing full well that another wave of scorn is heading her way. And yet despite what they say to each other, no one could ever question the love – or maybe it’s precisely because of it.

Long Live Love was produced by Helle Faber, of Made in Copenhagen, which is also handling the sales.

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