Fallen Leaves (2023)


The key to this movie’s winning emotional delicacy is its formal sturdiness. Every shot has a specific job to do and does it well. The performances are measured and restrained.

What constitutes a perfect film? A perfect film doesn’t have to be in any particular genre, in any event. A perfect film knows what it’s about, knows what it wants to say, and knows that even when what it has to say is unusually simple, what it says can’t be reduced to words or any form of description apart from the thing itself. Which means that a perfect film has to be seen in order for its perfection to be appreciated.

Ansa (Alma Pöysti) is a woman who works in a supermarket on an exploitative zero-hours contract, and resents that part of her job is to throw away perfectly good food at the end of the day; a sullen security guard clocks her giving stuff like this to desperate hungry people, and she is fired for trying to take home an expired sandwich.

Later Ansa finds herself in a karaoke bar where she meets a construction worker called Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), and there is a heartmelting connection between these two lonely people. They go on a very successful date to the cinema, although a subsequent series of terrible mishaps means that their relationship could be doomed – and here Kaurismäki may intend us to appreciate a filmic echo with An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Moreover, Holappa is a drinker, perhaps an alcoholic, and the booze brings out a nasty side.

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