Love Me Tender (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I came to Love Me Tender thinking “that Ticino movie about a dancer with agoraphobia”. But Seconda is not defined by any mental health label; her dancing is a fundamental strategy for survival. What Seconda has, and who she is, is the journey of the film – one she is forced to take when, in her early thirties and living in the prison of her parents’ tiny, messy apartment, unexpected events force out of her comfort zone.

Seconda is a unique character in this blog so far. Swiss outsider characters, apart from the “foreigners”, tend to be eccentrics (Dällebach Kari, René Gardi, Pipe from Les Petites fugues) or scapegoats (Der Verdingbub, the titular Goalie of Der Goalie bin ig). Their deviation is defined by, and in terms of, the community which does the labelling.

But Seconda isolates herself almost totally from her community (a low-income suburban neighbourhood I assume is in Lugano). She uses her bedroom window as a rubbish bin. We’re granted little insight into how those neighbours see her, and when Seconda does leave her house, in the sky-blue jumpsuit which is her “safe uniform”, we see only their baffled glances and the occasional catcall.

Maybe there’s a commentary here on the insularity of this milieu of Switzerland – someone mentions that everyone knows about Seconda’s problems, implying wants or knows how to help. But I feel out of my depth analysing society in Love Me Tender. That’s fine too – another reminder that Ticino exists, is Switzerland too, but very different to my lived experience here in the Swiss German region.

I’d rather appraise Love Me Tender for what it is: a good film made from a great concept, in which most of the bold moves work very well, even if narrative and tonal choices sometimes pulled me out of the experience. I’d love to see what Reynicke does next.

Particular praise is due the extended fantasy sequences, which don’t feel forced or pseudo-psychoanalytical. I felt strong resonance here as I was raised an only child and spent lots of time alone with my thoughts and fantasies. For me, books, music and movies offered an escape; for Seconda, only dancing offers a glimmer of hope.

Swissness Difficulty Level: Säntis (Intermediate)
Language: Italian, D and F subs. I actually suspect this is Ticinese dialect… I’m pretty dumb when it comes to this part of CH, write a comment if you can help me out!
Availability: Free on PlaySuisse, although I watched it in at the wonderful Kino Nische in Winterthur.

Swissness Lab Notes:

  • Quite a performance in the lead role by Barbara Giordano, who has few credits to her name. Giordano and Reynicke rather brilliantly make the actor’s body a character in itself. That body is the thing Seconda has most control over in her tiny world, but is constantly shown to malfunction.
  • I wonder how long the apartment set took to create? Massive credit to everyone involved. The lack of care Seconda and her family take in their possessions is very sad.

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