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

Film Review by Rachel Bowles | 17 May 2017
  • The Other Side of Hope
Film title: The Other Side of Hope
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Starring: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen
Release date: 26 May

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. 

Released by Curzon Artificial Eye