Ingmar Bergman is the rare artist who has mellowed without letting go of his demons. Sunday’s Children, written by Bergman and directed by his son Daniel, contains echoes of the old Bergman darkness- the resentments and cruelties, the intimate relationships poised between longing and despair. Only now these angst-ridden shadows are refracted through the generosity of a man looking back on his life with something like acceptance.
Set in the 1920s, the movie is a deceptively idyllic portrait of Bergman’s own family. Eight-year-old Ingmar (Henrik Linnros), nicknamed Pu, is a beautiful child so transfixed by life that he stares at the world with his mouth hanging open. He’s a portrait of the artist as spiritual voyeur. It’s Pu’s gawky hypersensitivity, his radar for the feelings of others, that heightens the tensions between himself and his minister father (Thommy Berggren), a loving, weak-spirited man who camouflages his self-doubt in flickers of cold rage. Structured as a rambling series of memories, Sunday’s Children never achieves the cumulative force of 1992’s The Best Intentions (which Bergman wrote and Bille August directed), but at its best - a shocking act of discipline during a ferry ride, the miraculously peaceful ending - it captures the emotions that can pass between parent and child in all their heartbreaking flux. B+