Fallen Leaves (‘Kuolleet Lehdet’)

COMIC DRAMA, 1hr 21min (Finnish with subtitles)

STARRING: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen

Moving picture: Pöysti and Vatanen

Even her defeated-looking pot plant is having more fun than Helsinki supermarket worker Ansa (Pöysti), whose dejection is a second skin as she checks out slabs of meat and shelves unappetising produce. Boozehound metalworker Holappa (Vatanen) seems cut from the same droopy cloth: his idea of a fun Friday night is kicking back with a comic book in the shipping container he shares with his workmate Huotari (Janne Hyytiäinen), who at least has the oomph to suggest they hit a karaoke bar.


A gloomily sipping Ansa is there, catching Holappa’s listless eye and patently far too pretty to be sneaking expired food home for her solitary dinners — for which mousy misdemeanour she is fired. Plodding right along, her next job is washing glasses in a bar so depressing they might as well be holding funerals on the side.


Unfortunately, the sorry bar’s actual sideline is illegal drugs, which leaves Ansa out of work and Holappa minus a watering hole. When the jinxed duo find themselves locked outside the shuttered establishment and Holappa asks Ansa out for coffee with his palpable lack of zip, it seems she may have found her soulmate — if the two of them can summon the strength to get together.


Drabness is sautéed reindeer and mashed potatoes to writer-director Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre), whose primary soundtrack in this fourth instalment of his Proletariat series is radio broadcasts about the war in Ukraine. For this master of minutiae, every gesture tells a small, significant story. It defies probability that, thanks to Ansa, Holappa quits the drinking that has left him jobless and homeless to become “as sober as a desert rat,” even more unlikely that Ansa, an oyster to her self-protective core, summons the trust to care for him when he needs it most while adopting an actual stray dog along the way, and unlikelier still that this straight-faced slice of low-rung life is as slyly funny as the happiest of accidents.