VIFF 2017: Aki Kaurismäki is at his best with The Other Side of Hope


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      Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is a deadpan stylist often compared to Jim Jarmusch, but hints of Lynch and Tarantino drift into this beautifully composed comedy, which manages to hit raw nerves on the refugee crisis in northern Europe while poking fun at Scandinavian reserve.

      Picking up themes suggested by his last effort, Le Havre, this darkly colourful tale centres on one Syrian escapee (compelling first-timer Sherwan Haji) who washes up in Helsinki after an accidental voyage that continues to go awry, and not in the usual ways. For him, one salvation comes in the form of an aging gambler and budding restaurateur who stands as an old-school bulwark against skinheads, reactionaries, and people with no sense of humour. Highly recommended.