Film Review: Tove

STUDIO: Juno Films | DIRECTOR: Zaida Bergroth | CAST: Alma Pöysti, Krista Kosonen, Shanti Roney, Joanna Haartti, Robert Enckell
SPECS: NR | 102 min. | Biographical drama | Finnish and Swedish with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist, illustrator and cartoonist behind Finland’s beloved book and comic strip “Moomin” characters, gets the biopic treatment in filmmaker Zaida Bergroth’s (The Good Son) engaging new film Tove.

It’s 1945 and Tove (Alma Pöysti, Liberty) is finding a new sense of artistic purpose and social freedom in post-WWII Helsinki. Amidst the city’s rubble she finds and renovates a spacious art studio and enjoys her long-term open relationship with the married socialist politician Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney, Together). During a showing of some of her paintings, Tove meets Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen, Miami), an upper-class theater director who is in a marriage of convenience, and the two quickly begin a passionate love affair.

Alma Pöysti is Tove

Tove craves to be taken seriously as both a painter and a life partner for Vivica. However, Vivica does not fully reciprocate her feelings while Tove’s painting is overshadowed by the increasing popularity of her Moomin illustrations and cartoons, which were developed as random doodling distractions while sitting in bomb shelters during the last days of the war. Tove dismisses the drawings as just a way of earning money but soon her work becomes a daily comic strip and a stage play, which bring her notoriety and financial success. As Tove begins to accept her new artistic identity, she realizes she must break from her unrequited love for Vivica to truly be free.

Bergroth’s direction is smooth and assured and she smartly films in 16mm, which gives the film a rich texture that evokes the time period matched with precisely created interiors and costumes. With her expressive face and energetic performance, Pöysti truly embodies the free bohemian spirit of Tove. In a few scenes, Tove dances with vibrant, wild abandon to the up-tempo jazz classic “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which mirrors her bubbly liveliness and personality (as evidenced by the 8mm home movie footage of the real Tove at the end of the film).

Tove is an appealing film that captures an important decade in the life of iconic talent and her search for identity, love and artistic fulfillment.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at