Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
Aki Kaurismäki, Finland’s deadpan laureate of life at the bottom of the heap, responds to Europe’s refugee crisis with a seriously funny film about a young Syrian mechanic (soulful Sherwan Haji) who finds his way into Finland by stowing away on a container ship full of coal. “Show me to the police station,” he asks the first person he meets, intending to take the legal path to political asylum. “Are you sure?” comes the reply. The refugee is slowly drawn, by a newly flush (though hopelessly melancholic) entrepreneur, into life under the radar working and living in what is surely Finland’s dodgiest sushi restaurant.
“It’s difficult to imagine anyone coming away from Aki Kaurismäki’s gorgeous tragicomedy about the refugee crisis in Europe, the challenges of the restaurant business and the rewards of self-reinvention without feeling gentle elation sparked by the story’s evidence of human kindness amid cruelty and indifference. This is a world that reeks of cigarette smoke and cheap vodka, yet as always in the work of Finland’s maestro of droll melancholy, the perfume that lingers longest is empathy…
Not unlike the salted herring with wasabi that gets served to a busload of unfortunate Japanese diners, this is a movie about foreign elements coming together, whether it’s displaced Middle Easterners fleeing atrocity in sleepy Scandinavia or two men from different worlds forging a mutually enriching friendship that speaks of selfless compassion without sentimentality.” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter