The Other Side Of Hope (12A)

The Other Side Of Hope (12A)

Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 26th May 2017

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I came out of the Picturehouse after seeing this film and thought I reeked of tobacco smoke.

Everybody, but everybody, smoked cigarettes incessantly throughout the movie.

This being the case you would imagine the storyline was set decades ago but no, it is very contemporary in that it centres around the travails of a refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) from Aleppo in Syria, who has fled to Helsinki in Finland.

Director Aki Kaurismaki, who is renowned for his dry black comedies, hits the mark again with The Other Side Of Hope.

The main thrust of the tale is the accidental meeting up of Khaled and Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen), a former shirt salesman, who has invested his money into buying a failing restaurant, staffed by oddball employees.

This initial liaison takes place within the closing thirty minutes of the film, when Khaled is caught sleeping by Wikstrom amid the bins of the premises.

I found the immediate bonding of the two very implausible. Most people in Wikstrom’s position would have chased him away, pronto. But for some unbeknown reason he immediately offers him a job and a place to sleep, as well as getting someone to produce bogus ID papers for Khaled. If only the World was like that!

Many of the characters have a sense of alienation about them. Alienation from people and from life in general.

This is particularly the case with Khaled, who had seen his home and family wiped out in a bombing raid in Aleppo. The only survivor was his sister, who also left Syria, but he is unaware of where she is now.

What stood out for me, although it had no relevance to the plight of a refugee, was the occasional appearances of buskers playing blues music on the street and elderly musicians performing rockabilly and blues in bars and clubs.

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