A Man's Job

A Man's Job


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

The camera follows Juha (Tommi Korpela) around his workplace, a stereotypically masculine workshop environment with heavy machinery, greased overalls, hard graft and all-male backslapping banter. Then at home, where it's clear that he has to get up every day at 5am to head to work and leave his wife and three young children in bed. Before he leaves he counts his stagnant-eyed wife's anti-depressant medication to keep an eye on how much she may or may not be taking.

With a measured gaze and deft scripting writer-director Aleksi Salmenperä swiftly sets up a credible domestic situation for Juha and his family. And then heads off into intriguing new territory.

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Juha was actually made redundant months ago, but he's embarrassed about it and worried for his wife's health so has kept it hidden from his family. He's been looking for odd handyman jobs with the help of his cab-driving, alcoholic friend Olli (Jani Volanen) to try to bring the bread in, but things are getting serious now. Luckily, a middle-aged woman responds to one his adverts for home repairs and he visits to give an estimation. When the lady offers him 1000 euros to get naked and brush her hair, Juha silently considers his options - and drops his tool belt.

Soon Juha has donned a suit, roped Olli into being his secretary and driver, and has a number of lucrative bookings in his diary and a burgeoning career as a male prostitute to 'mature women'. He is again fulfilling his patriarchal role by keeping the money coming in but as the deceit continues, shame builds and a menage a trois with Olli and his wife spirals inwards, Juha finds it increasingly difficult to balance his ordinary family life with his extra-ordinary living.

Salmenper's sensitivity in both his direction and screenplay keeps A Man's Job far more accomplished and intelligent than its seedy-sounding set up might imply. Indeed, although occasionally explicit, sex itself is hardly the focus of the piece, rather the relationships that people find themselves in. Salmenperä interweaves Juha's domestic troubles with episodes with various female clients, who vary from frustrated spinster, to widow, to inexperienced or lonely and ignored wives. Most contentiously, one client is a lady with Down's Syndrome. Each scene has its own tempo, tone and respect for those involved and Salmenperä deserves merit for his perceptive handling of people marginalised, even asexualised, by mainstream views of sexuality.

Added to these concerns are the themes of prostitution, traditional and modern roles for men in society, attitudes to mental illness and personal identity and family responsibility. It's quite a mix but each gets sensible dealing and the broth never feels too heady, even when Juha's mixed experiences enable him to understand better his relationships with his own family. There's a fair sprinkling of prosaic humour that helps lift everything, too.

Some questions and plot holes are never really resolved and events take a turn for the over-dramatic towards the end, breaking the carefully crafted reality, but solid acting pulls proceedings along. Volanen's troubled Olli provides interesting if one-dimensional relief from the masculine role of Juha. Maria Heiskanen's depressed mother has little to work with at first, although she's able to bring in a bit more depth later. The film revolves around Korpela's strong central lead as the caring but quiet father determined to get the right thing done, one way or the other. Without a convincing portrayal the film would otherwise quickly unravel. He's a large presence and uses his whole frame well to evince his character's sensitivity, resolve, awkwardness and desperation.

Taboo-tapping without parade, A Man's Job uses its simple story to probe a number of prevalent but subdued contemporary issues. An intelligent festival film that will sadly see only a small amount of the wider distribution it would benefit from.

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2007
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An out-of-work father tries his hand at male prostitution to keep supporting his family.
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Director: Aleksi Salmenperä

Writer: Aleksi Salmenperä

Starring: Tommi Korpela, Maria Heiskanen, Jani Volanen, Konsta Pylkkonen, Stan Saanila, Sara Paavolainen, Minna Suuronen

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Finland


Leeds 2007
London 2007

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