Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Äkkilähtö / Off the Map

En hastig sorti. FI © 2016 Solar Films Inc. Oy. EX: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. P: Nina Laurio. Line P: Jonna Enroth. D: Tiina Lymi. SC: Nina Laurio, Tiina Lymi. DP: Henri Blomberg (Hena Blomberg) - colour - scope - release format: 2K DCP. AD: Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Riitta Röpelinen. Makeup: Pia Mikkonen. M: Vesa Mäkinen. S: Karri Niinivaara. ED: Iikka Hesse. C: Lotta Kaihua (Katri), Jussi Vatanen (Johannes), Eedit Patrakka (Anna), Antti Holma (Mikko), Ville Tiihonen (Tero), Marja Packalén (grandma), Antero Nieminen (Vaittinen), Maaja Hallik (Sirle), Sten Karpov (Jaanus), Allan Kress (Siim), Iina Kuustonen (Ansku), Emilia Sinisalo (Susanna), Tero Koponen (Komulainen), Kaisa Leppänen (Julia). 98 min
    Loc: Helsinki, Sotkamo.
    Songs:  "Mulle käy" perf. Ella Lymi, "Aurinkoo" perf. Lucas.
    Released by Oy Nordisk Film Ab.
    The title is a wordplay meaning both "a last minute travel deal" and "leaving suddenly". "Alarm Exit" might be a possible translation.
    2K DCP viewed at Kino Kellokas, at Kellokas Nature and Cultural Center, Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Äkäslompolo, 23 March 2016

Tiina Lymi, the beloved Finnish actress, is also a theatre and television director, writer and playwright. Last year she released her first short film Naisen nimi [A Woman's Name], a witty piece of satire with a perfect sense of comic timing and ensemble playing.

In that film she crystallized a complex web of questions into a single detail: should a woman take her husband's family name? The characters of Naisen nimi are comical but credible, the dialogue and the plot turns unpredictable.

The cinema is sold out save a couple of seats in the front row when Äkkilähtö [Alarm Exit] starts at Kino Kellokas on the slope of the Ylläs fell. We have been skiing all day, and there is a dazzling view from the picture windows of the Villi Pohjola [Wild North] restaurant of the Kellokas Center. The audience is enjoying an entertainment film featuring some of the most popular and attractive actors of the country.

Äkkilähtö is a road movie, a crime story, a comedy, and the story of a childless career woman.

The successful 30-something apartment broker Katri leaves her man Mikko when she discovers that he has been living a double life with Sirle who in the finale is exposed to be the boss of an Estonian criminal gang. She discovers in her car another fugitive, the 8-year old Anna, whose parents, too, are a part of the world of crime. They cannot go to Anna's grandma's place in Vuokatti because the crooks would find them there. They find shelter at Johannes, a second hand and car repair shop keeper who lets them use his hideout in the deep forest of Kainuu.

This is a summer film, and the contrast between "civilized Helsinki" and "the wild forest of Kainuu" is used ironically.

There are funny scenes such as Katri abandoning all her needless cards to a beggar (at the start she believes she is about to move to France with Mikko for good). The streetwise Anna, in order to escape, feeds her crooked foster-father Tero yoghurt which causes him an acute bowel crisis.

The encounter with little Anna arouses Katri's protective instincts but she does not turn into a tigress like Gloria. Yet her motherly side wakes up. The tigress of the movie is Grandma (Marja Packalén) who rides a tractor and is armed with a shotgun.

The crime dimension of the story weighs a lot. Not only are Katri's man Mikko and Anna's foster-father Tero criminals. We also learn that Katri's mother has turned her heritage into money which she is now busy drinking away at Torremolinos, only needing Katri to help her avoid taxes.

A major income of Johannes seems to stem from the renting of his forest hideout. In reality it functions as a love hotel, complete with a comically tawdry bedroom. Apparently most of the female partners are prostitutes from the other side of the Eastern border which is not far. There is a comedy angle in Katri and Anna selecting the notorious "secret" forest cabin as their hideaway since everybody in the neighbourhood knows about it, and thus it is very easy for the crooks to find.

Anna's mother is a drug addict and a prostitute. The streetwise Anna seems to be more aware of that side of life than Katri. Everybody is involved in crime in a way that casts a deep shadow on the comedy.

The crime side weighs so heavily that it is at times difficult to relate to the characters. Of Katri's strengths we learn very little, as we only learn to know her outside her comfort zone. That she has been totally ignorant of Mikko's double life (as a criminal and with another woman) is possible to believe only if we understand her as a complete workaholic with a tunnel vision. In the countryside she is utterly helpless and cannot cope with the simplest tasks such as lighting a fire or rowing a boat.

The first main theme of the film is about Katri's waking up from illusions and growing up to a more complete and mature approach to life.

The second main theme is about the fate of children of dysfunctional parents, dramatized in the story of Anna. We laugh while we realize how such a life hurts and causes irremediable damage.

The main weakness of Äkkilähtö is the screenplay which would have benefitted from a thorough rewrite.

The music is pleasing with two key songs and an occasional blues slide guitar which always seems to fit well with the road movie.

The cinematography is pleasant in cityscapes, interiors and dialogue scenes. In nature scenes the limitations of digital are apparent.

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