What is the story about?
Sofie Rydman, a literary consultant, joins an old-school publishing house in Stockholm that wants to reinvent itself for the digital age. She bumps into Max Jarvi, a young IT intern. Both Sofie and Max start challenging each other to various outrageous displays of public behaviour and pranks, which all but disrupts life for them, and for their circle, even as the games grow increasingly dangerous. Can Sofie and Max survive this tumultuous existence?
At first glance, Love & Anarchy doesn’t look like the kind of show that should merit much attention in Netflix’s vast ocean of content. The pilot episode is painfully clunky at times, with the only surprise in the story being how badly Sofie wants to masturbate, to the extent that she even chooses to do it in her office. If you look at the first part of the title, you can sense Max and Sofie’s deepening attraction through their various outrageous—and often scandalous—antics, and that love will blossom between them, even though she is married and much older to him. And the antics increasingly grow shocking—from Max recording a video of Sofie masturbating in her office, to Sofie walking around at a public pool without her swimming briefs, to even Sofie walking backwards an entire day.
But look past that first episode, and suddenly the show becomes something else—less about the “love” and more about the “anarchy”. Thanks to Nordic noir, Sweden already occupies a place in popular culture as a dark, depressing place. But in creator and director Lisa Langseth’s world, the darkness is more internal. All the characters in this show keep pretending to be proper, and it exhausts them. Sofie’s father, for instance, is an idealist who has frequent nervous breakdowns—a problem that aggravates her own family life. Her daughter is the target of bullying at school. Max has a complex relationship with his parents. And the publishing house that they work in seems to be a metaphor for their lives, as they struggle to adapt to a changing world, in which any form of aberration is considered as “madness”. Both Max and Sofie, as well as the other characters, long to break free and let their hair down. Even though it’s rarely mentioned overtly, mental health is a big part of this narrative.
In such a scenario, this show manages to pull off something remarkably similar to Netflix’s UK hits Sex Education and Derry Girls—a rare comedy that, underneath the veneer of risky behaviour and bizarre antics, becomes a clarion call for casting aside pretensions and being more honest and free in a hypocritical and stressful world. It’s a brilliantly-directed show, with lots of standout moments (even the ones that you can’t watch with family), and a lot of heart. There’s even an arc revolving around the potential acquisition of the publishing house by a streaming service called “Stream.us”, which is an obvious reference to Netflix itself. I genuinely hope Netflix renews this for more seasons.
Ida Engvoll and Bjorn Mosten are in smashing form as Sofie and Max, and share terrific chemistry. The rest of the cast is great too. But one actor really shines—Reine Brynolfsson as Friedriche, the beleaguered creative director of the publishing house—who gets a terrific scene where he confronts his fears and anxieties under the influence of ayahuasca.
Music & Other Departments
Henrik Kallberg and Elin Projts do a swell job with the editing of the show.
There are too many highlights to list in this show, but the Book Fair scene in the fifth episode is where Love and Anarchy hits its zenith. Challenged by Sofie to “liven up the luncheon”, Max ends up mixing weed inside a batch of cupcakes that are about to be baked and served to their colleagues. This leads to a hilarious stretch where two senior colleagues have a meltdown on stage while talking about the acquisition of their publishing house, in front of the press.
You can’t watch this with your family.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, I did. A LOT.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. It’s a brilliant show, and I cannot wait to see where Sofie and Max go in subsequent seasons.