Fallen Leaves - Fairytale romance in modern times. GAIFF CRITICS WORKSHOP REVIEW

Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves is a whimsical love story that beckons us into a universe that seems to exist just outside the one we know. The two protagonists, Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), are working-class people living under the yoke of late capitalism. Ansa works in a supermarket; Holappa is a metalworker toiling in a scrapyard. Yet their jobs have no real value or meaning—not for the two drifters nor for their employers.

As in all fairytales, Ansa and Holappa fall in love at first sight, but are soon made to face a series of unexpected obstacles. It’s no coincidence that their first meetup should take place in a karaoke bar: all through Fallen Leaves music serves a mediator between the two lovers, and a means to blur our notion of space and time, with tunes that borrow from all sorts of genres, eras, and countries. Interiors and decor hark back to the 1960s; yet present-day news, like the war on Ukraine, routinely intrude in the film, reminding us of our dire reality. This constant merging of past and present does not alienate the viewer, because the world conjured by Kaurismäki remains authentic and vivid throughout.

And yet Fallen Leaves, with its surreal humor, old and new tunes, and lovable characters, stands as a reminder that it is never too late for love, and that nothing else matters in our chaotic and cold world.

Ani Kiladze