Despite the rather trite title, The Other Side of Hope is an amiable story of two very different
paths crossing in Helsinki. The first of these is that of Khaled (Sherwan Haji),
a Syrian refugee who has escaped to Finland via the cargo hold of a
Khaled has come to Finland almost accidentally, having experienced difficulties at various different borders. As well as avoiding deportation, his main focus is making contact with the sister he lost back in Syria. While presented in a reasonably amusing fashion, Khaled’s story gives us a pretty harrowing (and likely realistic) view of how life as a refugee might be after immigrating to the western world.
In contrast, our other lead protagonist is an older Finnish national, Waldemar Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen). Wikström’s slightly lighter plotline initially shows a man down on his luck, kicked out by a dissatisfied wife. Wikström’s luck soon changes, when he wins big at a poker game, and with this new influx of cash he pursues a long-standing dream to buy and run a successful Helsinki restaurant.
Through the introduction of several more eccentric Finnish oddities, the film comically shows the ups and downs of Wikström’s efforts as he decides on a business strategy. This ranges from adopting a more traditional theme – serving a plated can of herring as the only main course available – to running a Japanese (yet still ultimately very Finnish) themed sushi bar; and then to a hilarious combination of both. The two protagonists only actually meet in the third act, where Kaurismäki shows the empathy that made La Havre such an affable film.
Everything about the film really captures the ambience of Helsinki: the cinematography deliberately creates an old fashioned look, one which often has the embracing effect of further submerging you in that slightly dated Finnish culture. All the buildings and cars seem to be from that previous era. Only Khaled mentioning escaping in Syria reminds us that The Other Side of Hope is set now.
Both leads (particularly Kuosmanen) bring a lot of humour to the film, especially when they have to act in English. The awkward, clumsy nature of these moments only adds to the likeability of this quirky, charming film, one that nevertheless is still rooted in the global uncertainties and threats of modern life.
|What||The Other Side of Hope film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
26 May 17 – 26 Apr 19, Times Vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|