Unga Astrid (Becoming Astrid)

Poster for Unga Astrid (Becoming Astrid)

“Long before she found fame with the ‘Pippi Longstocking’ series, the Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren had an unplanned pregnancy that changed her life. In Becoming Astrid, the Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen uses that formative event as a fulcrum, building a lightly fictionalized portrait of the young Lindgren (played by Alba August) from its emotional and practical fallout.

We meet her in the 1920s, a strong-willed, spirited teenager whose quirky personality demands an escape from the small village in rural Sweden where her religious family farms on church land. The shame of the pregnancy means banishment—and liberation—to secretarial school in Stockholm, where her choice seems to be between an unwise marriage or a life without her child. It will take all her resolve to choose neither.

In many respects, Becoming Astrid is your standard biographical drama, its familiar beats untroubled by narrative daring or stylistic surprises. But Erik Molberg Hansen’s relaxed camera movements and fuzzy-soft compositions are quite beautiful, and the performances—including the superb Trine Dyrholm (Love is All You Need, A Royal Affair) as the baby’s Danish foster mother—are pitch-perfect. Best of all is the magnetic August, whose open, mobile features can slide from plain to lovely with just a shift in the light and whose embrace of the character is a joy to watch.

Bracketed by scenes filled with the voices of children as the aging Lindgren reads her fan mail, Becoming Astrid transforms teenage trauma into the wellspring of a lifelong gift.” (Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times)

“Throughout Becoming Astrid, August acquits herself brilliantly; the woman we come to know is a tangle of impulses and qualities, and feels vibrantly alive.” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)

“This film about an exemplary woman, made by women, is as much a pleasure as it is a lesson.” (Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com)