A traditional biopic is elevated from the embodiment of its subject even if it has an obvious gambit to call attention to its spirit.
The Scandinavian melodrama Becoming Astrid (in Danish/Swedish with English subtitles) looks at its author (born in Vimmerby, Sweden), fondly remembered for her best-selling children’s books like ‘Pippi Longstocking’, in her more formative years, the late 1920s.
The Swedish teen and young adult went by Ericsson (before later marrying Sture Lindgren in 1931 who’s filled here by Bjorn Gustafsson) as Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen effectively shows how she developed a confidence and self-reliance through obstacles, reflecting her most prized creations. There are surprising romantic elements, as well as coming-of-age elements as Astrid becomes involved with an unhappy small-town paper editor boss (Henrik Rafaelson) while being his secretary and occasional journalist.
Enjoyment here maybe predicated to a degree on the how Christensen (a co-writer here) bookends the proceedings and returns to it at key points from Astrid’s 80th birthday (in 1987, she died in 2002 and still has a living daughter, Karin) when opening letters and cards from her fans emphasizing the mindset of her youthful, hardy characters.
This paramour, done with remarkable attention to joy and sadness (notably in her visage) by Alba August (daughter of acclaimed Danish director Billie), will have to deal with her illegitimate Lars being remanded to Denmark for several years (watched over by a foster mother played by Trine Dyrholm). While trying to get together with him and his father who has to confront his philandering as his wife is ready to exploit his scandalous act in his goal for a quick dissolution. She’ll take up secretarial duties in order to tend for Lars herself with a significant connection on the horizon that has an emotional payoff. One that would cross over into Astrid’s uplifting prose.
Becoming entranced by this Astrid is a testament to the collaboration of Christensen and August to realize a discernible distaff empowerment from steely eccentricity. The latter’s preternatural way with the younger Lindgren yields an experience that transcends its storytelling in ways that reaches beyond ‘Lifetime’ audiences.