The Other Side of Hope (5 stars)

The Other Side of Hope

Masterful, compassionate and typically idiosyncratic dramedy from the great Aki Kaurismäki

Absence makes the heart grow fonder in The Other Side of Hope, the first feature from Finland's Aki Kaurismäki since 2011's Le Havre. The second in his planned 'ports' trilogy has all the Kaurismäki hallmarks we have come to know and love, from the lugubrious, deadpan humour to the rumbustious rockabilly music choices and the tenderhearted displays of hard-won emotions. How he has been missed.

Khaled (Sherwan Haji) has been separated from his sister in their flight from war-torn Syria. When he arrives in Helsinki, he immediately applies for asylum. 'Welcome,' says a dour cop. 'You are not the first.' Khaled's naive assumption that everything will be done to help him is challenged by a grimmer reality. The film's second strand follows Helsinki resident Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a travelling salesman who is seeking to make his own fresh start. He leaves his wife, sells his business and gambles on a new career as the owner of the ramshackle Golden Pint restaurant. Wikström has a sense of hope about his future, whilst Khaled finds his spirit gradually worn down by the bureaucratic nightmare that marks his time in Finland.

When the two men finally meet, and an exchange of blows becomes the start of a beautiful friendship, all the carefully plotted elements start to gel. The result is a timely, bittersweet exploration of the kindness of strangers, First World attitudes to refugees and a society in which we are more responsive to the plight of an adorable dog than the fate of a fellow human being.

Screamingly funny in places, gorgeous-looking, marbled with melancholy and warmed through with an irresistible sense of compassion, The Other Side of Hope is the work of a master filmmaker at the very top of his game. Simply sublime.

Selected release from Fri 26 May.

The Other Side of Hope

  • 5 stars
  • 2017
  • Finland / Germany
  • 1h 38min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Aki Kaurismäki
  • Cast: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kousmanen, Ville Virtanen, Kati Outinen
  • UK release: 26 May 2017

Syrian asylum-seeker Khaled (Haji) meets travelling salesman-turned-restaurateur Wikström (Kuosmanen), and after an awkward start, a beautiful friendship is born. Kaurismaki is back and at the top of his game, with a melancholy, gorgeous-looking, sometimes screamingly funny exploration of the kindness of strangers. How…