When his mother (Liden) becomes gravely ill, 12-year-old Ingemar (Glazelius) is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in rural 1950s Sweden. Reflecting on his despairing circumstances, Ingemar identifies increasingly with Laika, the Russian space dog who was rocketed to his death. Over time, as he makes new friends and experiences awakenings both sexual and emotional, Ingemar learns to cope with the hard knocks of life.
Hallstrom's winning tribute to the joys and sorrows of childhood skillfully balances bleak realism with poignant humor. It's hard not to love Glazelius, both for his outstanding performance and for his character's habit of comparing himself to those (like Laika) he believes are worse off. "My Life" is filled with rich characters and priceless scenes, like Ingemar's punishing loss in the boxing ring to a tomboy he's got a crush on, and the disquieting interactions he has with his ailing mother. Hallstrom later helmed big Hollywood projects like "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat," but here, he's at his heart-piercing best.