Saturday, December 16, 2017

Yösyöttö / Man and a Baby

Yösyöttö. Antti (Petteri Summanen) and Paavo. Image: © Solar Films Inc. Oy / Marek Sabogal.

Yösyöttö. Enni (Marja Salo) and Terttu with Antti (Petteri Summanen) and Paavo. Image: © Solar Films Inc. Oy / Marek Sabogal.

En man och baby
    FI © 2017 Solar Films Inc. Oy. P: Markus Selin, Jukka Helle. D: Marja Pyykkö. SC: Marko Leino, Marja Pyykkö – based on the novel (2010) by Eve Hietamies. Cin: Konsta Sohlberg – digital post-production: Post Control Helsinki Oy. AD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Kata Launonen. M: Antti Lehtinen. S: Panu Riikonen. ED: Harri Ylönen.
    C: Petteri Summanen (Antti), Marja Salo (Enni), Ria Kataja (Pia), Juha Muje (Antero), Santero Helinheimo Mäntylä (Janne), Marjaana Maijala (Anna Reponen), Niko Saarela (Ilkka Reponen), Kimmo Taavila (Peippo), Ulla Tapaninen (Ulla), Hannele Lauri (Vihanta), Anna-Maija Tuokko (Nelli), Pihla Viitala (Pihlaja), Ada Kukkonen (Jannika), Minttu Mustakallio (Tiina), Esa Illi (welfare officer / sosiaaliviranomainen), Katariina Bärlund (welfare officer / sosiaaliviranomainen), Lauri Tilkanen (Markku), Ella Mettänen (Satu), Leea Klemola (midwife / kätilö), Ona Kamu (bartender / baarimikko), Heidi Lindén (salesclerk / kaupanmyyjä), Jaana Saarinen (mother-in-law / anoppi).
    The film was withdrawn from the repertory of the dominating cinema chain Finnkino a few days before the premiere as the distributor and the theatre chain could not agree on sharing the income. According to the producer Finnkino wanted a bigger share than usually. Instead of Finnkino the film premiered in many other cinemas, even in Orion (daytime screenings, even baby bio screenings).
    Premiere: 6 Oct 2017, distributed by Nordisk Film on DCP, Swedish translation by Frej Grönholm, English translation by Mika Karttunen, 86 min
    Viewed at the cinema Riviera, Helsinki, with English subtitles, 16 Dec 2017

I watched Yösyöttö at the cinema Riviera in the district of Harju on Harjukatu 2, a couple of blocks from the Sörnäinen subway station, on the corner of Helsinginkatu. It was opened in its present incarnation one year ago, in the autumn of 2016. Starting from its website there is a special approach at the Riviera, and each screening is treated as a special event. The main feature starts 30 minutes after the announced start time. I used the extra half an hour to read weekend editions of international newspapers. I don't want to eat or drink in a cinema or during a screening but neither do I mind if others do as long as it does not distract from my concentration. In this screening it didn't. Instead there is an appealing atmosphere of anticipation and focus. The seats are not the usual cinema seats. Instead, they are ultra-comfy easy chairs. Everybody has a small counter or table for drinks and snacks. I used the counter for taking notes, my neighbour for snacks and drinks, and as I said, he did not bother me at all.

Marja Pyykkö is an experienced professional on the Finnish film and television scene, well-known as a director, screenwriter and actress, including in high profile tv series. Yösyöttö is her third theatrical feature film. All her feature films have been shot by Konsta Sohlberg, her husband.

I liked very much Pyykkö's theatrical debut film Sisko tahtoisin jäädä, a wild and irreverent coming of age story of two teenage girls played by Ada Kukkonen and Sara Melleri. The film was strong on performances and atmosphere, managing to discover rarely or never filmed aspects of Helsinki. There was a cinematic sense of space and the city in this bright debut. I have so far missed Pyykkö's second feature Kekkonen tulee! (2013).

This new film of Pyykkö's is based on the novel Yösyöttö ([Night Feed], 2010) by Eve Hietamies. The novel was so popular that Hietamies has written two sequels, Tarhapäivä ([Nursery Day], 2012) and Hammaskeiju ([Tooth Fairy], 2017) following the saga of the single father Antti and his son Paavo and their best friends, the single mother Enni and her daughter Terttu. Paavo has been abandoned by his mother Pia immediately after birth. Pia has a serious case of depression and, more fatally, she realizes that she is not mother material, instead heading to spend a year in Fuengirola, joining her own mother, who, it turns out, has not been mother material, herself.

The story of a single man having to take care of a baby has been popular in the cinema since the silent age. The Kid (Chaplin), The Crown Prince of the Republic (Ioganson), and Trois hommes et un couffin (Serreau) with its remakes and sequels come to mind. As well as one of my favourite Christmas films, John Ford's Three Godfathers based on a story which had been filmed many times before, very well by William Wyler as Hell's Heroes. In that story, three villains in the Wild West take care of a baby whose mother has died in the desert.

Marja Pyykkö's approach is fresh and original, and Petteri Summanen gives an excellent performance in the saga of the ordeal of Antti. Antti gets to feel the full weight of nursing a baby alone. The young mothers he keeps meeting show little mercy with him, although in one sense his task is harder: as a single father he is alone in the peer groups, and he feels isolated in many ways. But his neighbours help, as do Antti's father and brother. And his best friend at the office, Peippo. One of the running jokes of the movie is that it turns out detail by detail that Antti the workaholic knows nothing about Peippo.

There is documentary delight in the detail of maternity clinics, playgrounds and peer group meetings. The approach is unvarnished but not naturalistic. The film is well cast and the performances are credible down to supporting roles such as Ulla Tapaninen as Antti's maternity clinic contact or Antti's father and mentally handicapped brother.

Much of the film is carried by Antti's inner monologues, task lists and dream sequences. Antti has an issue with honesty. Often in the inner monologue we hear the truth but in the dialogue proper something different, even the opposite, and besides, Antti is also chronically lying to himself. During the 24/7 baby nursing period he keeps getting increasingly tired and has a hard time keeping track of his fabrications. It has been overwhelming for him to confront the reality of his baby's mother having left them.

Yösyöttö moves briskly thanks to the good performances, good dialogue and good timing. Visual and special effects (time lapse and doubling) are used to show Antti taking care of overwhelming tasks such as cleaning in record time before the arrival of welfare officers.

Antti has been dreaming of liberty, the symbol of which is his project to acquire a boat of his own. Instead, he becomes a "prisoner" of his own baby, but he faces the task and hardly complains. His neighbours have to force him to take a night out. Antti becomes so baby-oriented, and he is still so shocked at his wife leaving him that he loses initiative with women. He is even bullied by mothers of babies who have a dialogue on the theme of "panisin". (Impossible to translate with the right nuance, this means roughly "I'd like to fuck / screw", but the verb "panna" is not cheap. It is a sober and matter-of-fact verb; maybe "get laid" would be closer.) Anyway Antti is made to hear that the answer regarding him would be "no" because baby-caring men are seen as nerds. It seems that no matter what a man does, it is never the right thing.

Thus Enni (Marja Salo) the single mother of her daughter becomes the active one seeking contact with Antti. There is a romantic air in their involvement, but "nothing" happens. Sex roles are unusual also in the detail that Enni is a master karateka. Marja Salo gives a bright and witty performance as Enni. Worried, Antti's neighbours arrange a date at a party at their home, Tiina (Minttu Mustakallio), who single-handedly makes things happen as Antti has become too distracted to even think about picking up somebody.

I liked the cinematography of Sisko tahtoisin jäädä. The digital transfer from 35 mm had been performed very well in a period when it was far from self-evident. Now the visual look is even better. In Yösyöttö one can enjoy a good lighting and a good colour which is often pleasantly bright but never garish, for instance in Enni's theme colour yellow.



Synopsis from the press kit: "Komedia miehestä, joka jää vauvan kanssa kaksin. “Hyvästi seksi, baari-illat ja juttukeikat. Tervetuloa puklurätti, äidinmaidonvastike ja Teletapit. Mutta mistä hitosta tällainen äijä löytää ne kivikautiset äitigeenit?”"

"Avioliitto. Asuntolaina. Auto. Toimittajana työskentelevän Antti Pasasen elämä on mallillaan ja Pia-vaimo viimeisillään raskaana. Kunnes Naistenklinikan edessä kaikki muuttuu. Tuhiseva käärö syliinsä tyrkättynä Antti katsoo, kun taksin perävalot häipyvät näkyvistä, taksin takapenkillä Pia ja heidän tulevaisuutensa ydinperheenä. Elämä vauvan alias Paavo Pasasen ehdoilla alkaa, eikä Antilla ole aavistustakaan, mitä se tulee häneltä vaatimaan."

Elonet: "Marja Pyykön ohjaama ja Marko Leinon käsikirjoittama komedia Yösyöttö (2017) perustuu Eve Hietamiehen samannimiseen romaaniin. Nelikymppinen toimittaja Antti (Petteri Summanen) jää kaksin vastasyntyneen esikoisensa kanssa Pia-vaimon (Ria Kataja) huomattua, ettei äitiys ole häntä varten. Yhdessä pikku-Paavon kanssa Antti aloittaa hellyydentäyteisen, mutta hermoja kuluttavan, äidinmaidonvastikkeiden ja puklurättien kirjoman matkan kohti pienokaisensa yksivuotissyntymäpäivää."

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