Directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Starring André Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin. 93 mins.
Rating: Three and a half/Five
In cinemas April 6
SLIGHT BUT CHARMINGLY IDEALISTIC TALE OF COMMUNITY TRIUMPHING OVER ADVERSITY
A master of quirky, deadpan features, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s (La Vie de Bohème, The Man Without a Past) latest film combines his dry with an unrelenting empathy with the downtrodden to tell a slight but quirky and utterly charming tale of people who never hesitate to do the right thing.
Set in the free titular French port town, Le Havre’s hero Marcel Marx (André Wilms) is an aging shoe-shine so childish and financially irresponsible that not only can he not pay his bills, but his wife doesn’t trust him to deal with the news that she’s gravely ill.
But when a shipping container of African refugees is discovered, Marcel decides to take in young runaway Idrissa (Blondin Miguel.) Not only does Marcel embrace the responsible paternal side of his personality, but he manages to unite the fragmented town as they all pitch in to protect Idrissa from investigating authorities.
Kaurismäki is known for his quiet, understated style and the performances are wonderfully deadpan, both nicely playing up the emotion and humour of the piece. The director embraces the absurdity there is to be found in the midst of harrowing circumstance, such as Marcel straight-facedly telling officials that he is Idrissa’s albino uncle. Even the social undertones of the film are presented quirkily, with the characters’ names playing a huge part in portraying the director’s political beliefs.
Though the Euros used betray the film’s modern day setting, there’s a strangely timeless quality to not only Le Havre’s community triumphing adversity theme, but its warmly old-fashioned aesthetic. The 1970s style palette of dusty turquoises, mustards and browns lend an almost painterly feel to the cinematography, while the film’s score is piped through crackling old radios, adding to the classic tone.
Though unapologetically brief, crowd-pleasing and slight, Kaurismäki’s charming, idealistic view of humanity is an undeniably lovely one to bask in for a while.