A Swedish Story
The Swedish animated film “Top 3” consists of a simple story— Anton (Eric Ernerstedt) is a young college student who falls madly in love with David (Jonas Jonsson), a boy from his high school who is a couple of years younger. Anton’s life consists of lists, starting with the top three idiots he hates the most: the Prime Minister, me (himself), and you (David). With an honest script written by Simon Österhof and directed by Sofie Edvardsson, it is filled with little things that make it relatable, like how Anton bails on parties because it’s “laundry day”. The film is shorter than a feature but it does not rush. It takes its time for Anton and David to chat, to travel, and to live together for a summer. Did I mention that it is animated?
“Top 3” is about young love, long-distance relationships, and the heartbreak of learning exactly what you want in life. Anton wants to stay in Sweden in their little hometown village and enjoy movies with the fireplace burning in the winter. David wants to travel the world, and be on the move. Their dreams are at odds and their relationship, like many young ones, cannot handle the differences.
This is a story we’ve heard before but Its originality comes from the specificity of its characters and their situations, along with the wonderful animation. The ending lacks conviction, as Anton suffers in his pain but it is a realistic ending, though. When we’re young, we’re unsure and full of mistakes and full of concerns about making those mistakes. We tend to second-guess everything and seeing that, the film becomes humanistic.
Things start to go awry when Anton realizes that his dreams in life might be in direct opposition to those of his lover. In a companion film, included on the DVD, “A Halloween Trick”, an oversexed party boy finds himself at odds with his quiet neighbor in the days leading up to Halloween. He discovers that their miscommunication may have deadly consequences when he accidentally invites the wrong man home for the night.
There is nothing queer about “Top 3” aside from being a romantic comedy between two men. It is a distinctly conventional animated tale of David and Anton in which boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy and boy travel the world and then settle down, boy and boy realize they have different wants and needs in life, boy breaks up with boy.
The animation of “Top 3” has a stylized prettiness. With the visual impact of a children’s story book yet there is a corporate cleanliness to the care with which the scenes and characters are depicted. The title “Top 3” refers to a recurrent device used in the animation where David gives his Top 3 list for any situation. On the verge of his break up we learn that his Top 3 things to do on a final night with his lover are 1) Overdramatize everything 2) Discover something new 3) Be as bored as possible to make time pass slowly. The lists create punctuation marks of self-reflection throughout the story. The point of the plot is the learning process that each person goes through by being part of a couple. David learns that however much he yearns for the particular things that make him happy those things he enjoys are of less value compared to having someone to enjoy them with.
The film is terribly predictable, but only once you throw aside the expectation that because it’s a gay romantic comedy it will somehow be different than all the straight rom coms. It isn’t and that’s the radical point it makes.
It is the emotional push and pulls that make this such a resonating story. At the height of their relationship, Anton and David are battled by the very things that first attracted them to each other. Their journey follows the two over time with title cards and vignettes. We see it through Anton’s point of view, with happy dances in his mind and made up scenarios. His best pal, Miriam is endlessly supportive to the two and she keeps Anton afloat. Anton and David are faced with the question of “Where do we go from here?” Love can be unassured and out of order. When a companionship feels inconclusive, anguish gets the best of us. Anton and David were once looking at each other with joy and but then with uncertainty and pain.
Shown through Anton and David’s love story is a palette of bright colors. At the height of every scene is a Top 3 list voiced over by Anton himself.