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The Crack Magazine

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Fallen Leaves

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Stars: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivi

Small but perfectly formed, Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismäki’s first film in six years is a sweetly melancholy and tentatively hopeful depiction of a will-they won’t-they romance between two downtrodden Helsinki residents. Ansa (Pöysti) is a lonely, kind supermarket worker, smuggling away out-of-date items in her handbag under the watchful eye of the shop detective for her evening dinner. Holappa (Vatanen) is a depressed, functioning alcoholic building site worker. They exchange glances at a karaoke night in the dreary, ironically named California Pub, when Holappa’s mate Huotari (Hyytiäinen) is attempting to chat up Ansa’s friend Liisa (Koivi), and a series of encounters follows. All the while reports of the Russian invasion of Ukraine can be heard on the radio. The dour and oppressive atmosphere is leavened with moments of kindness and empathy, most drolly evidenced in Holappa’s dialogue with Huotari, their mutual supportive relationship communicated almost exclusively via deadpan insults and putdowns. Kaurismäki nods to the films of Bresson, Godard and, inevitably, his pal Jim Jarmusch, while the perfectly curated soundtrack ranges from Finnish kitsch ballads to rock ’n’ roll to doomy synth pop.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm