The Other Side of Hope

A restaurateur befriends a Syrian refugee who has recently arrived in Finland.

Credits: TheMovieDb.

Film Cast:

  • Khaled: Sherwan Haji
  • Wikström: Sakari Kuosmanen
  • Wikström’s Wife: Kaija Pakarinen
  • Miriam: Niroz Haji
  • Nyrhinen: Janne Hyytiäinen
  • Calamnius: Ilkka Koivula
  • Mirja: Nuppu Koivu
  • Mazdak: Simon Al-Bazoon
  • Busker / Band Member: Tuomari Nurmio
  • Cashier at Train Station: Abdi Jama
  • Police at the Station: Antti Virmavirta
  • Police at the Station: Timo Torikka
  • Drunkard: Olli Varja
  • Clothing Shop Attendant: Pia Riihioja
  • Clothing Store Owner: Kati Outinen
  • Reception Center Officer: Maria Järvenhelmi
  • Reception Center Officer: Katja Tolonen
  • Issa: Mohamed Awad
  • Migrant Janitor: Seppo Väisänen
  • Asylum interviewer: Milka Ahlroth
  • Interpreter at Asylum Interview: Karar Al-Bazoon
  • Guitarist Outside Bar: Ismo Haavisto
  • Hooligan at the Bus Stop: Tommi Eronen
  • Hooligan at the Bus Stop: Vesa Häkli
  • Hooligan at the Bus Stop: Dome Karukoski
  • Buyer of the Remaining Shirts: Pekka Wiik
  • Casino Doorman: Erkki Lahti
  • Poker Room Doorman: Mikko Mykkänen
  • Poker Room Waitress: Minna Maskulin
  • Poker Room Cashier: Heikki Heimo
  • Poker Room Operator: Sulevi Peltola
  • Man with Cold Stare: Matti Onnismaa
  • Poker Player: Hannu-Pekka Björkman
  • Poker Player: Hannu Lauri
  • Poker Player: Juhani Niemelä
  • Poker Player: Atte Blom
  • Poker Player: Jörn Donner
  • Poker Player: Jukka Virtanen
  • Poker Player: Kai Kilpinen
  • Business Agent: Puntti Valtonen
  • Seller of the Restaurant: Taneli Mäkelä
  • Lunching Businessman: Heikki Metsämäki
  • Bartender: Clas-Ove Bruun
  • Musician in Bar: Harri Marstio
  • Musician in Bar: Antero Jakoila
  • Judicial Authority: Ville Virtanen
  • Judicial Authority: Mirja Oksanen
  • Judicial Authority: Kari Vento
  • Courtroom Interpreter: Hamid Al-Bazoon
  • Police at the Reception Center: Sami Silventoinen
  • Police at the Reception Center: Jari Tuomola
  • Reception Center Guard: Mikael Hankkila
  • Saz Owner: Imad Alkhatib
  • Reception Center Watchdog: Ilmi
  • Band Member: Markku Hillilä
  • Band Member: Esa Pulliainen
  • Band Member: Mitja Tuurala
  • Liberation Army Finland: Panu Vauhkonen
  • Liberation Army Finland: Axel Laurén
  • Liberation Army Finland: Pauli Patinen
  • Man on the Beach: Juuso Hirvikangas
  • Man on the Beach: Esa Kukkola
  • Man on the Beach: Tom Liljemark
  • Man on the Beach: Reima Mäenpää
  • Man on the Beach: Tom Wahlroos
  • The Dog Koistinen: Varpu
  • Restaurant Inspector: Elina Knihtilä
  • Police at Restaurant Inspection: Hannu Kivioja
  • Fire Safety Inspector: Antti Määttänen
  • Winston: Elias Westerberg
  • Winston’s Assistant: Samuel Jaari
  • Police in Front of the Shop: Pirita Pesu
  • Police in Front of the Shop: Lauri Untamo
  • Dance Orchestra: Marko Haavisto
  • Dance Orchestra: Samuli Halonen
  • Dance Orchestra: Jaakko Rossi
  • Dance Orchestra: Jouni Saario
  • Melartin: Tommi Korpela
  • Customs Officer: Jonas Nourisson
  • Customs Officer: Heikki Häkkinen
  • Bus Passenger (uncredited): Juho Kuosmanen

Film Crew:

  • Writer: Aki Kaurismäki
  • Director of Photography: Timo Salminen
  • Production Design: Markku Pätilä
  • Sound Designer: Tero Malmberg
  • In Memory Of: Peter von Bagh
  • Still Photographer: Marja-Leena Hukkanen
  • Costume Design: Tiina Kaukanen
  • Gaffer: Olli Varja
  • Editor: Samu Heikkilä
  • First Assistant Camera: Mika Ailasmäki
  • Lighting Technician: Joonas Niemi
  • Transportation Captain: Jouni Kortesato

Movie Reviews:

  • CRCulver: In Aki Kaurismäki’s 2016 film Toivon tuolla puelella (“The Other Side of Hope”), the Finnish auteur continues a theme he explored in Le Havre from five years earlier: refugees fleeing to Europe and forced to survive when heartless officials and some locals are against them. While that earlier film was shot in the comparatively exotic setting of the eponymous French port, Toivon tuolla puelella returns to Kaurismäki’s familiar stomping grounds of downtown Helsinki.

    The film consists of two converging plotlines. In one, the aging salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen, a longtime member of Kaurismäki’s acting stable) leaves his wife, wins a lot of money in a poker game, and decides to open a restaurant. In the other, the Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives in Helsinki after fleeing war-torn Aleppo and wandering across half of Europe, but he is worried about his sister that he got separated with along the way. Wikström and Khaled eventually meet and become friends — or the closest thing to friends that Kaurismäki’s exaggeratedly cold and morose Finns can get to each other. Before that, however, the Wikström plotline serves to inject some humour, albeit of an extremely deadpan sort, into a film that, though Khaled, explores the depressing lives of refugees who are shuffled from one center to another and forced to wait for their cases to be processed.

    For three decades now, Kaurismäki has made all his films to a very distinctive template that virtually never varies. Its characters speak a minimum of dialogue to each other and show little expression on their faces. The sets are drab in colour and deliberately anachronistic, with gadgets, vehicles or clothes from the 1950s alongside computers and mobile phones from our time. At some point, a band will appear on stage playing oldies rock, blues, or Finnish tangos as the characters look on.

    Toivon tuolla puelella doesn’t stray from that template either. Still, the script has enough fresh moments to it that it will feel worthwhile evento longtime Kaurismäki films who have sat through this template many times before. Some of the humorous bits are laugh-out-loud funny, but overall this does feel like a darker film than most of the director’s work. It is ultimately a choked, restrained cry of rage at the way that refugees are treated, by a Nordic society that prides itself on fairness, equality and charity. While Kaurismäki is roughly on the left politically, several of his films have attacked the Finnish welfare state for its opaque bureaucracy and its reduction of human beings to mere papers in a government file. This film continues that critique by depicting the refugees, who come from many countries but manage to band together to lend each other help, as the sort of neighborly solidarity that Kaurismäki prefers to faceless bureaucracy.

    I personally wouldn’t find this the best introduction to Kaurismäki. His earlier film Mies vailla menneisyttä (“The Man Without a Past”) depicted with more meat on its bone a down-on-his-luck man lost among bureaucracy, while the über-idiosyncratic romantic comedy Varoja paratiisissa (“Shadows in Paradise”) is one of Kaurismäki’s best achievements in deadpan humour. Still, Toivon tuolla puelella seems to tell a story universal enough to pull on everyone’s heartstrings and is worth seeing.

  • FrontrunnerParis: Europe “welcomes” war refugees. Gallery of portraits in Tati-style sets, and a call to order, always in progress. Uplifting.
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