This unassuming little 74-minute wonder ends with a revelation so unexpected, yet in hindsight so obvious, that it took my breath away, its emotional satisfaction detonating like an underground explosion. I don’t know who to praise for this. The screenplay is credited to the director, Klaus Härö, but it’s based on an original script by Jaana Makkonen, and whoever is responsible for the crafting of that explosion deserves the kudos. I’d like to think they both had a hand in it. If so, what a team. To a tiny deserted corner of Finland comes Leila – middleaged, chunky, taciturn to the point of surly – recently pardoned and released from prison.
She has found a job with blind Father Jacob, reading him the letters he receives from people seeking advice, comfort and prayers. She’s a reluctant and sceptical reader but has an inkling of the letters’ importance to him and perseveres in the routine. When that routine is upset, she finds herself taking actions whose consequences she – and we – can in no way have anticipated. Yet the clues are all there, quietly seeded in the few facts we’re given and in the emotional subtext of both characters. And when the explanation comes, late in the film, it’s so cleverly and beautifully integrated into the world of the story that there’s not a hint of expository clumsiness. It is one of the most perfect resolutions I’ve seen in a while.
Leila and Jacob are not your usual odd couple, bickering their way towards détente. With one blind and the other uncommunicative, it’s a relationship as sparse as the Finnish landscape, but cinematographer Tuomo Hutri makes good use of that, visually mirroring first their cold isolation, then implying its thawing amid sylvan sun-dappled beauty. Graced with finely judged performances from Kaarina Hazard and Heikki Nousiainen, this is a simple but deeply affecting study of loneliness, faith, forgiveness and humanity, with not an ounce of sentimentality.
The Deep Blue Sea
Oh dear – those repressed British. Playwright Terence Rattigan tackled them rather well back in 1952 in The Deep Blue Sea, and to acknowledge the centenary of Rattigan’s birth, Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives) offers this version, contracting the story around the wife-husband-lover triangle and wrapping it in his signature imagery of postwar nostalgia and melancholy.
Unlike the film’s close cousin, Brief Encounter, the repression – and the passion – is permitted more expression, but still not much. Legs entwined on a bed is as far as it goes. Granted, it’s meant to be tastefully restrained and more an interior mood piece than story-driven, but despite good casting (Rachel Weisz as Hester, Simon Russell Beale as her much older husband and Tom Hiddleston as her airman lover), there’s an opaqueness to the characters and a lack of flow – perhaps refl ecting its stage origins – that keep us at armslength. And although Davies is as disarming and on point as ever with his lovely sing-songs, a screeching soundtrack presumably meant to evoke inner turmoil makes you long for Brief Encounter’s Rachmaninov.
OPENING IN CINEMAS JUNE 7
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing.