While Aki Kaurismaki, forever the poet of Helsinki’s proletariat and a melancholic romantic too, isn’t as prolific anymore – having made just 3 films in the 17 years since his masterful The Man Without a Past – his palette remains as quintessentially droll as ever. The Other Side of Hope, along with his beautiful previous film Le Havre (made 6 years earlier), constitutes what might be his Refugee (or, Dockyard) Trilogy. The only possible cures, for a world torn apart by xenophobia, bigotry, intolerance and prejudices, are perhaps the individual expressions of empathy and compassion – a maxim made even starker by the European migrant crisis – and this formed the crux of both these wry, darkly funny, humanist films. It follows the threads of two men looking to start over – for Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen), a middle-aged, laconic travelling salesman who decides to leave his wife and start a new profession by purchasing a struggling restaurant, the journey is largely personal; however, for Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a young Syrian guy whose family was reduced to rubbles in Aleppo, and who managed to smuggle himself and his sister into Europe in the hope for an escape, only to face vicious hatred of the neo-Nazis and apathy of the officials, the journey has been gut-wrenching. When Khaled, on the run after his request for asylum is denied, bumps into Waldemar, the latter displayes an extraordinary act of kindness, along with small mercies by his working class staff (including the straight-faced Kaurismaki regulars Ilkka Koivula and Janne Hyytiäinen). The sharp jabs at cold governmental procedures aside, the movie’s otherwise minimalism was regularly alternated with elegiac folk songs. And yes, there's a deadpan cameo by Kati Outinen.
Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Black Comedy/Political Drama