Before Pippi, there was Astrid.

By May 9, 2019 Film

Sunday is Mother’s Day here in Canada.

If you’re a mom, perhaps you will be fȇted. Perhaps you will salute all those who mothered you.

Perhaps you’ll cry. To get you started, watch the film Becoming Astrid.

Never before has a film come along with more appropriate spirit and shine for the week at hand. A stunning study of character and acting finesse, this gorgeous film comes via Danish filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen (who won the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix award at the Berlin Film Festival for her very first feature film back in 2006). Christensen’s treatment of the Swedish literary icon Astrid Lindgren is my spring pick for your next couch flick.

A childhood without books—that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.

Astrid Lindgren, 1956

If you missed Pippi Longstocking in your childhood literary travels, it’s okay, you’ll survive….barely. Even if you did miss encountering the strongest girl in the world who lives by her own rules in a house with her monkey pal, Mr. Nilsson, Becoming Astrid is not a film about the back story of that beloved character. It is a film about origin: how a young creative woman in pre-war Sweden becomes an unwed mother and journalist and learns to live independently before her eventual marriage (which is not shown on film). What this film posits is that these early years informed Lindgren’s later work—34 chapter books and 41 picture books that together have sold 165 million books—and stoked the children’s rights activist she eventually became. The film opens and continues throughout with Astrid the old woman surrounded by fan mail from children. Lindgren is the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top.

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren

A stand-out performance by Alba August as a young and bored Astrid Ericcson is fine-tuned by Christensen’s direction. In scene after scene, this astonishing talent is given room to show a variety of emotions as she portrays the young writer outcast from her religious community. Not once does it feel manipulative. This writer shall just say as it is: a female director telling the story of an unconventional and exceptional woman is rare and that, dear readers, is worth a celebration worthy of Mother’s Day.

Yes, I cried. So will you. And smile too. Watch it with your mother.