This lovely Swedish biopic tells the story of the challenging early life of Astrid Ericsson (Lindgren) who would go on to write the children’s classic Pippi Longstocking and a slew other memorable books. Born in a rather idyllic if strict farming community, at 16 she was offered a job at the local paper and fell for the married editor. Though it was reciprocated, an unplanned pregnancy caused her to make some very difficult decisions that colored the way she saw children and undoubtedly made her the writer she was to become. Played by Alba August (The Rain), Astrid is initially brimming with curiosity and energy, but her pregnancy and the choices she is forced to make with the child take a heavy toll. Fortunately, it all works out by the end, or we wouldn’t have her wonderful books.
When we meet Astrid, she’s carefree and a bit too energetic for her religious family. But her father recognizes her creativity and lands her an internship with the local paper. The editor is a married man, in the midst of a divorce, with 7 children from a previous marriage. And sparks fly. But when Astrid realizes she’s preggers, and her boyfriend knows that it could very well influence the divorce proceedings, she’s dispatched to Stockholm and secretarial school where she meets some other young women who know what to do as a single mom. She has the child in Norway and plans to retrieve him when the divorce comes through. Only there are delays and more delays, and she watches her son grow up from afar, and it makes her sadder and sadder.
But as I said, it does work out eventually. Alba August is wonderful as the young woman coming into her own in a very patriarchal world. It’s definitely a #girlpower story. The only thing I found a bit cheesy was the bookending and occasional punctuation of the film with an aged Astrid sitting at her desk reading letters from children who loved her books. I don’t think it added anything to an otherwise empowering writer’s story. Nevertheless, Becoming Astrid would make for a great mother/daughter outing. (Not too young though. There’s sex.)