In this latest film, Finnish Director Ali Kaurismäki reaffirms his mastery of tragicomedy. An endearing depiction of ordinary love, both born of serendipity and obstructed by happenstance, Fallen Leaves is a slow-burning joy. We meet Ansa (played by Alma Pöysti) working a zero-hours contract in a supermarket, where she loses her job for reallocating expired foods that otherwise would have gone to waste. Meanwhile, Holappa (played by Jussi Vatanen) is a construction worker with an alcohol dependency and an all-consuming despondency about the world as it turns. Through a series of misfires, the pair form a connection that threatens to supersede their stark realities.
The film is steeped in a captivating mundanity. Neither are you drawn to very specific aspects of the film’s careful design nor are you quite able to satiate the desire to drink it all in at once. The dreary patchwork of Kaurismäki‘s story world also creates the perfect canvas for his wry humour to let rip. The emotionally fiscal Ansa and Holappa enjoy some electric moments of wit, both together and separately, as they each navigate the balance of personal conservatism and a burning desire to be seen.
Given that the film is set in modern-day Helsinki, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland’s border with Russia is never far from the mind’s eye. Reports of devastation filtering through the radio serve to remind all within earshot that their perception of tomorrow may be sitting on a knife’s edge. As alcoholism, fickle employment and financial instability peer around every corner, Kaurismäki easily depicts a landscape where burgeoning love may not feel supported to take root. It’s this – the promise of a little miracle – that breathes at the heart of Fallen Leaves: the chance of finding a love that wills you to believe in tomorrow, when precious little else will.
Words: Emer Tyrrell
Director: Aki Kaurismäk
Talent: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen
Release Date: December 1