Fallen Leaves, which follows two folks making an attempt to outlive the trendy world, is likely one of the yr’s greatest movies.
Ansa, the taciturn protagonist of Fallen Leaves, lives a relatively gloomy existence. She works at a grocery store in Helsinki, Finland, stocking cabinets and monotonously pricing gadgets below a safety guard’s brooding eye. She trudges dwelling each evening to a small condo, listening to bleak radio studies concerning the Russia-Ukraine warfare simply throughout the border. Within the movie’s opening scene, she microwaves a dinner she takes dwelling from work, provides it one look, and throws it within the rubbish, uneaten. Her identify, actually translated from Finnish, means “lure”—as in, she’s trapped by her life.
However did I point out that this movie is likely one of the funniest, most profitable comedies of the yr? Fallen Leaves is the newest work from the Finnish author and director Aki Kaurismäki, who channels his nation’s dry and mordant outlook on life into quietly uproarious materials. Lots of his movies are social satires: His 2002 masterpiece The Man With out a Previous was a have a look at life amongst Helsinki’s homeless, whereas 2011’s Le Havre and 2017’s The Different Facet of Hope examined Europe’s ongoing refugee disaster. However Kaurismäki all the time makes his larger factors slyly, weaving them into tragicomic tales of standard folks struggling to carve out an existence—folks like Ansa (performed by Alma Pöysti), who certainly appears caught even after she meets Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), one other wayward soul seeking connection.
Holappa is a development employee and semi-functioning alcoholic with a disposition that appears, even by Finnish requirements, fairly sorrowful. He, like Ansa, is in his mid-40s, caught residing alone and doing menial work below the thumb of a grumpy boss. Wherever Helsinki’s cool nightlife is perhaps positioned, each characters appear removed from it—as an alternative, they collect at a drab-looking social corridor the place singletons bleat karaoke to stony-faced fellow prospects. I’ve lengthy questioned if Kaurismäki is having greater than somewhat enjoyable along with his nation’s popularity as probably the most taciturn Nordic nation, a standing that matches amusingly alongside statistics claiming that it is likely one of the world’s happiest.
However any time Fallen Leaves feels prefer it’s edging into maudlin territory by depicting the sameness of its characters’ lives, Kaurismäki punctures the temper with a droll quip. Sure, Ansa and Holappa are clearly in want of human tenderness, however this isn’t some ultrarealistic presentation of social decay. Whereas a few of Kaurismäki’s different movies make sharper factors about Europe’s social democracies needing to increase their assist to the much less lucky, Fallen Leaves is extra tightly centered on this one couple, making a basic entreaty for kindness in an period of isolation.
Nonetheless, the inclusion of these radio broadcasts about atrocities in Ukraine, and ever-brewing stress on the Russian border, will not be idle background noise. Finland just lately joined NATO after many years of neutrality on the subject; Kaurismäki is clearly gauging the nationwide temper as pessimistic within the face of the Russian state’s revived militarism. Fallen Leaves will not be about characters hooked on doomscrolling on their telephones, however that’s the general texture of the environment surrounding its two protagonists—an awesome fatalism, given the world’s turmoil, and a way that issues can’t enhance.
Once more, Fallen Leaves is a comedy, and a persistently humorous one, even when most of its chuckle traces are gruffly delivered. The temper is perhaps grim, and Ansa and Holappa is perhaps satisfied of their very own lack of ability to progress, however slowly they do, partaking in a halting romance that should climate their mutual suspicion that happiness merely can’t be across the nook. Ansa disapproves of Holappa’s ingesting, whereas he chafes below her calls for that he work towards self-improvement. However at the same time as Kaurismäki throws obstacles of their manner, there’s in some way little doubt on the viewer’s behalf that they’ll determine one thing out.
That’s why I’d argue that Fallen Leaves is, for all its meant quietness, probably the most trenchant works about trendy life to emerge in cinemas, post-pandemic. I’ve by no means been to Helsinki, nor am I an alcoholic development employee, however I strongly recognized with the sensation of those characters, the foreboding shroud of the trendy world they’re wrapped up in, and their slight however significant efforts to seek for one thing higher. Fallen Leaves is 81 minutes lengthy and light-weight on dialogue, its third most pivotal character is a wayward canine Ansa takes into her life—but it’s among the best motion pictures of the yr.