Review: The Other Side of Hope (2018) 'Finnish director Kaurismäki once again tackles immigration in new film'


Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
Jan. 10, 2018 at 9:50 a.m.


Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula, Nuppu Koivu, Simon Hussein Al-Bazoon, Niroz Haji, Kaija Pakarinen.

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki 

Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki sticks to the subject of illegal immigration for his follow up to 2011's “Le Havre,” a wonderful comedy/drama about an aspiring artist-turned-shoeshiner who offers refuge to a young African immigrant. “The Other Side of Hope” is centered around a Syrian refugee who is taken in by a salesman-turned-restaurateur in Helsinki.  The film’s tone immediately evokes cinema of days gone by, but the message is just as topical as today’s headlines.  

Sherwan Haji plays Syrian refugee Khaled who escapes the violence in Aleppo by stowing away aboard a coal freighter.  Like so many other refugees who flee their war-torn countries, Khaled seeks asylum, so he attempts to legally register with the authorities only to be arrested and told that he will be deported back to his home country.  As Khaled watches the situation in Aleppo worsen on the local news he realizes he must flee so he heads underground to avoid deportation.  

Khaled’s timeline runs concurrently with the film’s other protagonist Wickström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a middle-aged traveling salesman who decides to leave his alcoholic wife and pursue his dream of owning a restaurant.  The two men cross paths when Wickström discovers Khaled sleeping near the trash bins and so he offers the refugee a job at his new restraint/bar The Golden Pint.      

Everything in Kaurismäki’s film, from Timo Salminen’s beautiful cinematography to the relaxed pacing of the actors, to the props used in the production, takes the audience back to those glorious days of classic Hollywood and dazzling Technicolor.  

The humor is dry, but it doesn’t take long to get into the rhythm of the film.  The monotone acting from the exceptional cast, many of Kaurismäki’s regulars, is both funny and engrossing as the story seems to be ripped from today’s headlines.  Fans of the director know that music plays an important role in a Kaurismäki film and here we are treated to wonderful performances by local musicians.  “The Other Side of Hope” tells its story by using vibrant color and a style reminiscent of nostalgic cinema that’s featured daily on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).       

(3 ½ stars) 

Now showing at the AFS Cinema (Austin)



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