Kaurismäki is a prominent filmmaker from Finland who stands out not only as a frequent participant in the Cannes competition, but also as one of the few who creates genuinely humorous films that are not just limited to the art house genre. One of his charming and enjoyable cinematic comedies is Fallen Leaves, which includes catchy rock’n’roll music. It is a romantic and heartwarming film that employs a deadpan approach to convey its heartfelt emotions without any hint of irony. Additionally, it offers insightful commentary on modern politics.
I discovered myself passionately supporting the main characters in a simple manner that I have not experienced with any other film at Cannes. This is a movie that should be cherished by Finnish film enthusiasts – who will also appreciate the brief appearance of Finnish director and Cannes veteran Juho Kuosmanen – but it is truly for everyone. Despite its title, this movie embodies the spirit of spring.
Ansa (Alma Pöysti) is a woman who works in a supermarket on an exploitative zero-hours contract, and resents that part of her job is to throw away perfectly good food at the end of the day; a sullen security guard clocks her giving stuff like this to desperate hungry people, and she is fired for trying to take home an expired sandwich.
Later, Ansa ends up at a karaoke bar where she meets Holappa, a construction worker. Despite both being lonely, the two share a heartwarming connection. They have a successful date at the cinema, but a series of unfortunate events threatens their relationship. This may be a nod to the classic film, An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Additionally, Holappa is a drinker, possibly struggling with alcoholism, and his drinking brings out a negative side. Unfortunately, he fails to realize that his drinking is jeopardizing his chance at true happiness with Ansa.
Additionally, the characters in the story occasionally listen to the radio for updates on the Russian attack on Ukraine. It is worth noting that smartphones and TVs do not seem to exist in this world, making it feel like the setting could be the early 60s. This news brings a mix of emotions to the listener – resentment, depression, and defiance. It is clear that director Kaurismäki wants to convey a specific message: Finland is situated on the border with Russia. The fear of Putin’s regime is not a distant concern for Finland like it may be for the UK, America, or even Germany. For Finland, the threat of Putin’s troops is very real and close by. The war has cast a shadow over Finland’s well-being, but its people remain determined to carry on. Despite its absurd and cartoonish elements, Fallen Leaves is a heartwarming film that leaves the viewer with a sense of positivity.