Review: Refugee adrift in offbeat comedy drama The Other Side of Hope

Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismaki's quirky comedy-drama The Other Side of Hope. Picture: Curzon

Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismaki's quirky comedy-drama The Other Side of Hope. Picture: Curzon Artificial Eye - Credit: Curzon Artificial Eye

Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismaki turns out to be the ideal filmmaker to deal with the refugee crisis as he conjures another quirky portrait of modern life.

The Other Side of Hope (12A)

****

Underpinning all the I'm-not-racist-but post-referendum arguments about the problems of multiculturalism, was a yearning for the simpler times of the 1950s. It was dull and drab, but at least then we were miserable on our own terms.

For 40 years Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismaki, best known for Leningrad Cowboys Go America, has forged a deadpan vision of Finland as a hermetically sealed society of dour, chain smoking, suicidally depressed alcoholics.


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Now though the turmoil and hysteria of the wider world has broken its seal. At the start a Syrian refugee called Khaled Ali (Sherwan Haji) emerges from the coal on a cargo ship arriving in Finland and tries to make a go of life in this new land.

Elsewhere a travelling salesman Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) peddles shirts and manages to offload 3,000 items. He celebrates by risking his earnings on a game of poker and miraculously, Wikstrom wins big to the extent that he decides to take over an ailing restaurant bar called the Golden Pint, which serves sardines to clientele directly from cans.

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Wikstrom wins over existing staff including Melartin (Tommi Korpela) by giving them advances on their salaries as he attempts to turn the business around. He also hires Khaled, who has escaped Aleppo and needs to procure a fake identity card to stay in Finland.

Kaurismaki turns out to be the ideal filmmaker to deal with the refugee crisis. His comedy drama isn't constantly prodding you for an emotional response; viewers are trusted to supply their own emotions.

It's a film about integration. Will the refugees submit to the dry constructs of Nordic deadpan, or can they retain their own identity?

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