Finland’s entry for the 2023 Oscars is one of my favorite films of the year. This romantic dramedy from Aki Kaurismäki feels like a mash-up of a color-drained Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) are two lost souls in Helsinki who somehow find one another and despite a number of set-backs manage to make a go of it. Pretty much a given from the beginning. But getting there is the fun.

Ansa works in a grocery store, but gets fired for taking home some food that was supposed to be thrown away. Holappa is a metalworker who loses his job for drinking. Both of them accompany friends to karaoke one night. And they notice one another. But getting together takes more time.

She’s a lonely woman who spends a lot of time alone listening to sad songs or the news about the war in Ukraine on her radio. And he’s someone who doesn’t seem to be interested in anything at all except for his hip flask. But they both hold out hope for something better once they recognize one another.

It’s really impossible to convey how funny this movie is while being so bleak. The comedy is mostly deadpan, and the actors are perfect as star-crossed lovers you’re pulling for.  There is also a dog that comes in at just the right moment. And I totally appreciate that the director kept this tale to the 81 minutes it deserves. I highly recommend this surprisingly entertaining little film.

[Mainstream Chick’s take: Fallen Leaves is definitely an Arty romdram, likely to be hit or miss for the mainstream audience. It’s relatable in a very melancholy and deadpan sort of way. Even at just 81 minutes, it’s a slow burn. A blue collar love story about two lost souls who desperately want to connect and find personal bliss amid the drudgery of daily life. And while I root for the pair to ultimately find their way, I also root for Holappa’s drinking/karaoke buddy, and Ansa’s rescue pup. They provide much-needed comic relief and emotional support as this unconventional romance unfolds. Note to romantic drama buffs: there is what I consider to be a nod to the classic, An Affair to Remember. Let us know if you agree! -hb]

In limited release.  Put it on your list!

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