Featuring: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivu
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
In Cinemas: Now
Fallen Leaves tells the story of two lonely people (Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen) who meet each other by chance one night in Helsinki and try to find their first, only, and ultimate love. The man’s alcoholism clouds their path towards this honourable goal, lost phone numbers, not knowing each other’s names or addresses, and life’s general tendency to place obstacles in the way of those seeking happiness.
Fallen Leaves is a short and simplistic romantic comedy that differs from the more common Americanized version of a Romcom. The plot is purposely slow-paced, infused with constant dry wit around the humour in certain situations and between different characters. It creates a groundedness about itself that disconnects it from modern-day electronics. Set in the present and modern day, the film highlights the current Ukrainian war as Ansa (Pöysti) and Holappa (Vatanen) individually and occasionally listen to updates from live broadcasts in their homes on old-fashioned radios. This creates and discludes the current culture surrounding smartphone and technology consumption; there are numerous moments where there is a reliance and meaning behind the simple task of having a conversation and a human interaction. It promotes this beautiful power and beauty while investing in face-to-face communication. Our two main characters carry the burden of meaninglessness and emptiness in their lives, and they repeatedly physically and emotionally lose each other several times throughout the film. Often, they fail when they try to find each other, and when they stop, they suddenly find each other again. Which better contributes to the delivery and style of the recurrent theme in the emphasis and importance of the deadpan sense of humour.
The disconnection from electronics continues in multiple scenes, and in one scenario, there is a beautiful scene with the significance of traditional modes of communication. After their first date at the cinema, Ansa (Pöysti) and Holappa (Vatanen) swapped handwritten phone numbers on paper. Unknown to each other identities, Holappa then asks Ansa her name, to which she replies that he will have to wait and get that information on the second date. Holappa then almost immediately loses the paper to the power of the wind and blows away into the distance. We get a better understanding of him as a person who is alcohol dependent and constantly gets fired from his job; it seems to be out of luck, and when something positive seems to be happening to him, it simply drifts away like a piece of paper. This metaphor exemplifies the brilliant and clever filmmaking techniques that Director Aki Kaurismäki continuously uses in different areas. That deliberate display of emotional neutrality is persistent among characters, and in doing so, it makes it relatable to the audience. There is always that silence and awkwardness between characters and one particular moment where two people stare at each other because they don’t know what to say.
It seems like nothing is happening, but in contrast, it is the reverse and immaculate in its deliberateness. Fallen Leaves is rejuvenating and brilliant storytelling, encouraging this sweet fable about humanity accompanied by linear lessons. The film uses evocative imagery, symbolising this uncomplicated awareness of the complexity when understanding the movie’s central themes. Early on, we see alcoholic Holappa looking at himself through a mirror and it is broken. Instantly, we realise his identity is fragmented, creating a simplistic general attitude to his life. Sometimes, he searches for clarity that permanently fits perfectly into the story and feels authentic. The narrative of the film and the self-awareness of lost human interactions are done to high comedic standards. They are generally promoted and presented in this simple, sweet, outstanding film.