Fallen Leaves (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023 | Jury Prize

May 22nd, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Aki Kaurismaki | Cast: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivu | Finland Drama 81

A spare but satisfying love story emboldened by Kaurismaki’s usual deadpan humour and blatant disregard for visual appeal. Fallen Leaves sees two lonely blue-collar workers form a tentative bond when they first set eyes on each other in a run down industrial backwater to the north of Helsinki.

Morose panel beater Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a heavy drinker, lives in a squalid trailer with his fellow factory workers. When Friday night comes around he joins a colleague for karaoke where he meets Ansa (Alma Pöysti) but neither seems particularly impressed with each other. Or so it would seem. After taking her number, he promptly loses it and so begins an obstacle-ridden path to romance. 

Aki Kaurismaki won the Gold Bear for his Syrian refugee story The Other Side of Hope in 2017. Six years later he tracks back on similar themes in this ironically entitled ‘fourth’ episode of the Proletariat Trilogy, that started over two decades ago with The Match Factory Girl. Unlike Ken Loach’s recent agitprops Fallen Leaves avoids collective whingeing instead opting for playful humour to tell a tightly-scripted tale of gentlefolk, inured to their humble existence, and content with their situation in life – but love is always the balm they seek to get them through the day.

Full of irony and innuendo, Fallen Leaves works through familiar territory: immigration, zero hours contracts, social isolation and the healing powers of love in a light-hearted drama where music plays an important part, weaving in tunes from the Finnish songbook and offering a welcome antidote to the hardcore fare in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Cheers and standing ovations prove this to be one of the most popular features of this years 76th edition. MT



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