'The Other Side of Hope' is an offbeat Finnish refugee tale with a lot of heart

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Alternating with Wikstrom's saga is the story of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a refugee from Aleppo, Syria, who in a typical Kaurismaki touch, sneaks into Helsinki by stowing away in a ship's enormous coal bin. Khaled's horrific story of death and exile is delivered directly to the camera, no frills allowed.

It's only natural in AkiWorld that Khaled and Wikstrom come together around that restaurant, but that doesn't mean things are easy.

Taunting Khaled whenever they come across him are hooligans from the Liberation Army of Finland, who try their best to make his life miserable.

But while the conclusion to "The Other Side of Hope" is open-ended, Kaurismaki unashamedly believes in brotherhood, and among other things his film celebrates people who do the right thing without making a big deal about it.

And though the director has become political, he has hardly abandoned his offbeat, slyly ridiculous style, creating a world where looking happy is so forbidden that Khaled is told that if he smiles on the street people will think he is crazy.

A big fan of rockabilly-tinged Finnish popular music, Kaurismaki as always finds room for musical interludes played by a variety of aging hipsters.


As photographed by Kaurismaki's regular cinematographer Timo Salminen, the poet of deserted streets, "Hope" indulges in the director's usual fondness for unlikely pastels and bright red items like ever-present fire extinguishers.

Then there is that huge portrait of Jimi Hendrix dominating a wall in the Golden Pint. As with most things Kaurismaki, you don't ask what on earth it's doing there, you just go with the flow.

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