The Other Side of Hope
Aki Kaurismäki is back with a bittersweet drama about the unlikely bond between a Syrian refugee and a Helsinki gambler
The Other Side of Hope begins with Khaled (Sherwan Haji), his face and body completely camouflaged in sparkling soot, emerging like a divine, alien entity in a harbour. A Syrian refugee, Khaled has come to Finland to both seek asylum and find his sister, one of his few surviving family members. The friendless Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a gambling man, decides to buy a restaurant; upon seeing homeless Khaled sleeping rough in the alley, he offers the refugee a job, a fake ID and an underground storage unit to live in.
Kaurismäki’s cinema in Hope bares all his trademark fingerprints: a vintage colour palette; a strangely retro, technophobic 21st century setting; deadpan humour; still, single-shot scenes. The director has apologised for making an “issues” film in Hope, trying to frame the current refugee crisis as a depoliticised humanist issue, with Helsinki offering a somewhat drab utopia for both Khaled and Wikström. Unfortunately, apolitical is still political, and Hope’s happy ending runs on the oppression inherent in that of class and racial politics.