Written by: Ljiljana Maletin Vojvodić //
What is a healthy emotional relationship, and does the content of this phrase depend on whether we live in Serbia or, for example, in Finland? Can we love multiple people simultaneously without committing adultery, and have several romantic partners without showing jealousy? These are precisely the questions problematized by the Finnish film „Four Little Adults“ („Neljä pientä aikuista,“ 2023), directed by Selma Vilhunen (Turku, 1976), which was screened at this year’s Slobodna zona (Free Zone).
Exploring the theme of polyamory — an intimate relationship of romantic and/or sexual nature involving multiple partners, which, unlike polygamy, doesn’t necessarily include marriage — the plot of the film „Four Little Adults“ follows the daily life of a middle-aged married couple with a child, whose life seems idyllic until the wife discovers her husband’s extramarital affair. After the initial shock, Juulia (an esteemed politician, and a member of parliament), portrayed by Alma Pöysti (awarded for this role at the Gothenburg Film Festival), attempts to accept her husband Matias’s lover (who is, incidentally, a Protestant pastor) by proposing an open relationship. Is it out of a need to control the situation, fear of being otherwise abandoned by her husband, a decision to sacrifice herself for him, or because she saw polyamory as a way out?
The film explores how polyamory functions in practice, and questions seemingly happy family relationships, but also institutions such as the church or parliament that uphold the „norms“ the main characters cease to follow. Because Juulia also finds a lover — a bisexual man in a homosexual relationship. Now, the question is whether she does it out of revenge, despair, or because she herself no longer knows how to function in a monogamous relationship.
Selma Vilhunen, who also wrote the screenplay, references the book „More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory“ by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux, which Juulia discovers and gives to her husband and his lover. But does everything that awaits them exist in that book?
„It’s an important book,“ explains Vilhunen, who, through the exploration of alternative relationships, tried to portray diverse Finnish society and different sexual identities.
„All my life I have been wondering about monogamy. I guess I have been questioning my own choices, what they are based on, and whether it’s really the right way to live,“ said the director, who was nominated for an Oscar for the film „Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?“.
The film „Four Little Adults“ raises various questions. One is certainly whether polyamory is „the most complete form of love because it allows the one we love to love others.“ But can polyamory be seen as synonymous with sacrificing personal happiness for the happiness of loved ones, why would the one we love only be happy if they have relationships with multiple partners? In any case, this film that depicts the romantic entanglements of four Finns challenges stereotypes and a sense of security, questioning the concept of the traditional family and depicting new, non-traditional family relationships.
In the end, it all resembles a happy ending. However, the interpretation lies in how we perceive monogamous and polyamorous relationships. Whether we view this film as a bittersweet comedy or a serious drama depends on whether we can believe that a polyamorous relationship can be happy.