A film about grieving with a three arc structure, Mark Cousins’ employed the help of cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, and Swedish singer, Neneh Cherry, to cultivate a film, which is almost a love letter to a city, about pathos, Stockholm and the contrast between the delicacy of feelings and the architecture of the Swedish concrete city.
This is a fictional debut from Irish critic and documentarian, who recently graced us with Atomic and I Am Belfast, and as he is renowned for, an essay film. Inward-looking, this is the story of Alva (Neneh Cherry) as she meanders almost aimlessly around Stockholm, after an obvious loss in her life. The narrative is motored by her inner monologue, vocalised by way of an otherworldly voiceover in English and Swedish and, as the film develops, by song and on-screen text. Cherry’s dulcet, resonant voice aids what is often obviously a Cousins’ written narration (a mere mention of wild swimming more than hints at that), which hints at themes of trauma and geographical and architectural therapy, allowing the audience to ruminate in the montage of engineered images, along with Alva.
In Stockholm, My Love, Alva is an academic in Stockholm to give a lecture on the architecture of the city, but cannot follow through, gripped by grief, and alternatively wanders around the Swedish city alone. She considers her dead father in the narrative who had lived in the city, and another man to whom she feels indebted to due to an unpleasant event in which she was involved, and thereby also grieves for him. This grief manifests and is expressed by this numbness, which Cherry offers rather well as Alva Achebe, eventually expressed in song nearing the end of the film. The montage of image is beguiling, shots of water, structures, bridges, interjecting the close-ups of her movement, her pensive reflection and it is interesting to note that it is shot by frequent Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle.
Muted colours and drabness follows this city, making it less of a love letter than the initial thought highlighted but in its own way outlines the more realist beauty about the city. The only moment we get a sense of colour is in the two oranges we keep being offered in the visuals, against the pavement. A real sense of contrast. Somewhat murky, somewhat stunning, the film offers an emotional palette for the audience and a fictional journey, which is not too dissimilar to one Cherry had to embark on, herself. A reflective essay film.