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Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen in Fallen Leaves (IMDB/Malla Hukkanen, Sputnik)

Fallen Leaves is a subtitled Finnish-German film about two lonely people who meet by chance in a karaoke bar. Source: Australian Catholics. 

Fallen Leaves won the Jury Prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. It was rated one of the top five International films of 2023 by the National Board of Review, and gained the Best Foreign Language film of 2023 award from the National Society of Film Critics in 2024.

Ansa (Pöysti ) and Holappa (Vatanen), meet in a Helsinki karaoke bar and the attraction between them is spontaneous. 

Loneliness and disappointment have defined their lives in different ways. Job losses, despair, alcoholism and missed opportunities in life leave their mark. Ansa lost her job in a supermarket after being caught with an expired packet of cheese to feed a homeless man. Holappa lost his job as a metalworker because of his drinking; and he drinks because he is depressed, knowing that his work is seriously affecting his health.

At first, Ansa and Holappa share only a few words with each other, but life for both, against the background of the Ukrainian war, has been tragically difficult. Holappa struggles to see what lies beyond his drinking, and Ansa lives alone with few friends. 

The film is a tragicomic romance that is completely uplifting. The acting performances of both Poysti and Vatanen are delivered with calmly detached humour that is amazingly poignant in what the two actors are able to portray. Silences express mutual longing, and genuine feeling. The film is understated and dramatically arresting, and it shows ugly features of society in a disarming way. It also emphasises human kindness and connectedness. It is a beautiful film.

Review by Peter W Sheehan, Jesuit Media

Fallen Leaves: Starring Alma Poysti and Jussi Vatanen. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki. Rated M (Mature themes and incidental coarse language). 81 min.


Fallen Leaves (Australian Catholics)