Le Havre manages to be downbeat and uplifting at the same time
Starring André Wilms and Kati Outinen. In French with English subtitles. Rated G.
Although he’s clearly no Jean Gabin, André Wilms makes an excellent Prévertian hero. This time out the gate, the Kaurismäki regular plays Marcel Marx, an aging rebel who has long since given up big-city art for a shoeshine boy’s box in the port city of the title. Barely tolerated by the police and preoccupied with the health of his ailing wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen), Marcel soon finds himself taking care of a character even more marginal than himself: Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a 13-year-old illegal immigrant whose life might literally depend on whether or not he can somehow sneak across the English Channel. Saving Idrissa becomes Marcel’s goal in life, as he relies on the help of his warm, working-class friends, tries to avoid the attentions of a racist neighbour (Jean-Pierre Léaud), and attempts to get an accurate reading on an omnipresent police inspector (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who dogs his every step.
Loaded with inside jokes (virtually every given name means something besides itself) and great music (unreconstructed French rockabilly), Le Havre manages to be both downbeat and uplifting at the same time (an oxymoronic emotional combination that has become Kaurismäki’s specialty).
So who cares if you’re in a lousy mood? This movie will improve it. (I can pretty much guarantee that.)
Watch the trailer for Le Havre.