Eye For Film >> Movies >> Fallen Leaves (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
An amuse-bouche of a film, Aki Kaurismäki’s latest comedy romance may leave you wanting more but it’s also a fully rounded, good looking experience packed with all the flavours we’ve come to expect from the master of deadpan down the years.
Ansa (Alma Pöysti) is working a dead-end job which, steeped in the sort of irony that the Finnish filmmaker has made his stock-in-trade, involves checking supermarket shelves for the products that have come to the end of their shelf life. Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), meanwhile, is a metal worker with not much else in his life except a drink problem that's about to cost him his job. The pair of them don’t know each other… yet.
This, coupled with an unexpected meeting of eyes at the karaoke bar they’ve both gone to with friends, is the simple set up for Fallen Leaves that blooms, or rather threatens to bloom, into a sweet romance for most of the film.
The amuse-bouche similarity extends, as always, to Kaurismäki's detailed craftsmanship. There is never a colour or an object out of place in his creations - this one is dominated by reds, blues and greens, a colour combination redolent of technicolor three-strip and which is surely no coincidence in a film that is packed with classic film references. When Ansa and Holappa go on a date, it’s to see Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. We see the pair, deadpan, watching, although afterwards Ansa declares she hasn’t laughed so much in ages. It’s a typical line in a script which is peppered with unexpected little punchlines - that they often appear as if from nowhere only adds to the delight.
The cinema they go to seems to be a cineaste’s dream, with a roster of posters including films from Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville and David Lean among others. They change regularly as we get to see because Holappa manages to lose Ansa’s phone number the moment he gets it. As he doesn’t know her name - another nicely worked little gag - he returns to wait by the cinema repeatedly in hopes of seeing her again.
In the world of Kaurismäki there’s always a sense that no matter what bad things happen somehow something - often four-legged, as it is in this case - will turn up. And no matter how self-contained his microcosms are, they always feel infused by the outside world. In this case, it is regular radio reports of the invasion of Ukraine that drift in, a stark reminder that reality is rarely as humanistic as the universe Kaurismäki creates. Delivering Kaurismäki’s moments of emotion can’t be easy but Pöysti - who UK audiences might recognise from her turn in Moomin writer biopic Tove - and Vatanen have the knack of employing the right facial flicker or head tilt at just the right time. In Kaurismäki’s universe there is always the possibility of a happy ending and afterwards you might just find yourself thinking that sometimes an amuse-bouche can be just as enjoyable and surprising as a full meal. This one also comes equipped with an elegant finish.Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2023