Criterion Prediction #119: The Other Side of Hope, by Alexander Miller
Title: The Other Side of Hope
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Cast: Sakari Kuosmanen, Sherwan Haji, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivu, Simon Al-Bazoon, Ilkka Koivula
Synopsis: A restaurant owner and his staff band together to help a Syrian refugee find his sister and evade the authorities who are trying to send him back to Aleppo.
Critique: Kaurismäki’s follow-up to Le Havre, in what seems to be an informal series regarding immigration, follows much in the same mold of its predecessor but expands its political purview while maintaining the director’s deliberately wry aesthetic. Kaurismäki is one of the most consistent international auteurs, his adherence to deliberate staging, droll irony, measured pacing and dark humor is balanced by his poignant themes, forthright narratives and most importantly the sympathy and affection realized in his characters.
The Other Side of Hope is a fluent continuation of the director’s contained universe; the compositions are articulately minimal and the lighting purposefully reflects the languid tone that is revealed in every scene. It seems like Kaurismäki implements his sardonic wit into every detail of his films, so much so that inanimate objects radiate the sly wit of the movie well-intended humor.
The film stays the course. Kaurismäki serves up a narrative supplemented by his trademark deadpan comedy and, like Le Havre, there’s socio/political import in exploring the international issue of people fleeing dangerous parts of the world in the hopes of finding a better life in another country. And like Le Havre, The Other Side of Hope follows the story of a collective band of people working together to help someone in need. And the biggest strength is the minimalized drama and politics; this isn’t a message movie because there doesn’t need to be an emphasis on what’s already a frontline subject. Kaurismäki seems to understand that the best way to stress an issue is without any stress at all. Alarmist renderings of what the media oft refers to as “the refugee crisis” wouldn’t better our perception but Kaurismäki digs out a bevy of warmth and humanity and spreads it across an at times hilariously funny backdrop that elicits its humor without compromising itself in the process. The Other Side of Hope is a poignant delight that is one of the director’s best recent works.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: As was the case with Le Havre, let’s hope that this latest entry follows the same pattern and its introduction to home video is a Criterion release. All other reasons in favor of The Other Side of Hope receiving the Criterion treatment are relatively self-explanatory. It’s a superlative title from a director prominently featured in their library.