VOD film: The Other Side of Hope
Edward Hopper colours9
Josh Slater-Williams | On 27, May 2017
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Cast: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Simon Hussein
Watch The Other Side of Hope online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismäki is one of those filmmakers who scarcely tweak their formula, his own being a brand of deadpan, hangdog absurdism. His style is one that’s been refined through years of intense practice; his films all sort of look and feel the same, despite different plotting. But that’s no bad thing. The beauty of his 30-year-plus filmography is that virtually any entry works as a valid starting point for the uninitiated, as well as offering new riches for established fans. The Other Side of Hope, his first film in six years, is a perfect example.
Kaurismäki’s films all have overlapping formal DNA, but the narrative meat of this new feature has much in common with his prior film, Le Havre (2011), which concerned an ageing shoe shiner sheltering a young African migrant on the run from the authorities. The Other Side of Hope is similarly concerned with a young man (though older than the teen of Le Havre) fleeing his homeland, but also throws in an older Finnish protagonist who’s making a fresh start of his own: leaving a marriage and exploring a new business venture.
The Finnish man is Wikström (Kuosmanen), who wins a fortune at poker and subsequently buys a failing restaurant (“Just the dining hall and the kitchen scored badly”). The migrant is Khalid (Haji), a Syrian man who we first see emerging from a large coal store aboard a barge. He is seeking asylum, wanting to do things properly, by the book. He checks in to a reception centre in Helsinki as an illegal migrant, hoping to set up a life in the country while also trying to get any word regarding the safety of his sister, whom he became separated from during his travels across various borders.
Khalid encounters prejudice in the form of both far-right bullies on the streets and more subtle racism in the grilling he receives from holding centre authorities as to how he made it to Finland from Aleppo. Khalid’s life has little in the way of humour, and Wikström is hardly an altruistic individual, but when their lives eventually cross, they end up helping each other – but not before punching each other in the street upon their first meeting and misunderstanding. Cue Wikström helping Khalid land some falsified documentation when his asylum seeking goes pear-shaped, while Khalid lands work in the low-rent restaurant, where the theme seems to shift every few days, despite the staff’s unsuitability for preparing certain cuisine – this year, you will believe a Finnish man can’t make sushi.
The Other Side of Hope is a deeply humane and tightly-told tale, rife with humour both subtle and gut-busting, as well as an important call for empathy. Come at first for the Edward Hopper-ian colours, droll laughs and cinematic nods (Tati, Ozu and silent comedy among them); come back again and again for the perfect balancing act between melancholy and farce.