The Other Side of Hope ★★★

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE (Kaurismaki, Finland, 2017, 6)

I don’t exactly, in moral terms, *object to* Kaurismaki’s characteristic tone and tropes here — the rockabilly interludes, the deadpan delivery, the absurdism. But it does feel off, or at least limiting, for a film about a Syrian refugee fleeing Aleppo, especially since he acts in at least the same downplaying and downshifting register. It especially makes a doodle out of the film’s first 45(?) minutes before Khaled meets up with the Finn restaurateur Wikstrom. Khaled had first been seen hiding in a cargo hold full of coal and then goes through Finland’s refugee system and describes in one take what happened to his family in Aleppo. And Aki intercuts all these with Wikstrom’s #FirstWorldProblems so that it all seems pointless. That said, there IS a lot to like here in a comic vein and in a kind of easy fantasy. It's Aki being Aki, and there's a sweetness and gentleness to his humor that really feels welcome. The sushi-restaurant rebrand is a scene I will neither forget nor ever not-horrify Steve with. And the alt-right gang is so absurd and easily repulsed as to be legitimately funny, like kids playing dress-up.