Fallen Leaves

15¦ DVD

There are many things that can contribute to being unhappy; for some it can be forced to listen to any recent Coldplay album, for others it could be discovering that you really aren’t a cat person after all.

But what can exacerbate these feelings and make them even worse is being lonely. Of course technology has come to our aid, but surprise surprise, loneliness still exists.

For his latest film Aki Kaurismäki explores this singular emotion in his own imitable style.

boom reviews Fallen Leaves
I say it's vegetarian, it has some sausage in it. And chicken. And a bit of lamb...

Living in Helsinki is Ansa (Alma Pöysti); she works in a supermarket in the city and lives alone. Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) also lives there alone, and works as a steel worker.

Their paths cross at a karaoke bar, and it’s love at first sight. Unfortunately for them, meeting was the easy part, because for them, embarking on a relationship is full of missteps and obstacles, to the point where it’s almost as if the pair are never meant to be.

boom reviews Fallen Leaves
Their new love seat didn't appear to be working.

If ever there was an anti rom-com, this would be it. Or at least a romantic comedy in the conventional, Richard Curtis sense. Kaurismäki’s take is all about the unconventional.

The Finnish director’s film, which he also wrote, resonates with a working class mentality throughout, much like the rest of his work, as it focuses on two people who meet, with both recognising some kind of spark between them. He then spends the rest of the film presenting them with various barriers that prevents them from coupling. These would be outrageous gestures in the hands of someone like Curtis, but it’s all deliciously subtle with Kaurismäki, but in doing so proves that the smallest of things can get in the way of true love.

It’s a world that, initially at least, Kaurismäki presents as if taking place decades ago, with very little in the way of technology involved. He reminds the audience however, that this is taking place very much in the here and now, with regular news updates on the war in Ukraine being delivered on the radio. Not only does this put the story within a time frame, Kaurismäki is also giving us a little perspective by saying that finding love is of course important, but there are bigger things going on around us, with real suffering taking place. He doesn’t do it to trivialise falling in love, just remind us of its relative importance in the grand scheme of things.

Everything about the film is downbeat and dead-pan. If it was to appear on the infamous Spinal Tap 1-11 amplifier, it would be at a constant zero. There’s a tangible dryness to the material, that you can only assume is a very Finnish trait, but it certainly has its charm.

Despite the lack of outpouring of emotions, you can’t help but want Ansa and Holappa to finally find one another, amongst the dreary way of life that the pair are currently drowning in.

Yet another not-quite-feel-good flick from Kaurismäki, who still manages to find the joy in the understated.

we give this four out of five