Film Review: Fallen Leaves

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, shares his thoughts on the romantic comedy-drama film, Fallen Leaves (M).

Finnish writer/director/producer Aki Kaurismäki’s latest (a.k.a. Kuolleet Lehdet) is one of his sweetest comedic/dramatic character pieces, although there’s plenty of darkness here too.

Full of this filmmaker’s quietly eccentric, even peculiar humour, this is essentially a romantic tale, unlike his more recent socially conscious pics like Le Havre and The Other Side Of Hope. And yet there’s a serious jolt of scary politics here as well, with radios and TVs continually reporting on the endless horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and then being turned off.

Ansa (Alma Pöysti) works at a supermarket somewhere in Helsinki, and at night she goes home to her very Kaurismäki-esque one-room apartment, often to eat expired food. She’s talked into going to a karaoke bar, and there she catches the eye of Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), who has himself been dragged along by wannabe-ladies-man Hannes (funny Janne Hyytiäinen). It seems as though Holappa will eventually ask Ansa on a date, but his life is very difficult, with a succession of grim jobs and an increasing (and understandable) fondness for booze.

When he finally does get around to taking Ansa out, they attend a screening of director Jim Jarmusch’s ‘meta’ zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die, and this leads to lost phone numbers, awkward dinners, misunderstandings, rejection, disaster, and more. Much of the narrative is accompanied by old-school (pre-rock-and-roll?) Finnish tunes and covers (including a goofy version of Mambo Italiano), and everything is shot through with Aki’s distinctive stillness, with characters often forming melancholic near-freeze-frames.

And, continually, the bad news about the all-too-close war keeps on coming, as if we’re being asked over and over how anyone could possibly commence a real relationship while the world is in such a mess. But, well, it does very much feel like Ansa and Holappa truly deserve to be together and enjoy a little happiness because, in the end, they simply don’t have anything else.

3.5 out of 5 STARS

Fallen Leaves is at cinemas now

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