Fallen Leaves review: Quirky Finnish rom-com an antidote to sappy movies

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Fallen Leaves’ humour is so dry it’s a parched, arid desert.
Fallen Leaves’ humour is so dry it’s a parched, arid desert. Credit: Palace Films

Valentine’s Day might conjure up grand, sweeping romances with soaring music and charged moments of locked eyes and “can’t live without you” declarations. Fallen Leaves is not that.

The Finnish rom-com is the opposite of big-hearted American stories. It’s a restrained, quirky and droll love story for those that understand that day-to-day romances are often understated. It’s the small wins that count.

Set in a corner of Helsinki where workers are struggling to get by, Ansa (Alma Poysti) has a job at a supermarket removing expired food. She takes the bus home to a small studio with a single bed, where she heats up a microwave dinner.

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Fallen Leaves is in cinemas now.
Fallen Leaves is in cinemas now. Credit: Palace Films

Nearby, Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) lives in a workers’ dormitory on a construction site, where he has hidden bottles of booze to fuel his alcoholism. The pair meet by chance at a karaoke bar and it’s not immediate sparks. But between them, there is an understanding of two lonely people who can find something in the other.

Fallen Leaves’ humour is so dry it’s a parched, arid desert. And its world is bleak without being grim. That might sound like a slog, but its writer and director Aki Kaurismaki has created a space that through its formalism and detachment which courses with humanity.

Fallen Leaves sees the good in a bad situation and gives its characters moments of grace in a tough world. In that, it directly and indirectly invokes one of the great American rom-coms, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

Rating: 4/5

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The front page of The Nightly for 15-04-2024

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