The Other Side of Hope: a movie review by Hila Tsor

March 26, 2018 by Hila Tsor
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For years we’ve been hearing about the conflict in Syria on the news.

Addressing such a sensitive subject is tricky business, director Aki Kaurismaki (Berlin Film Festival, Best Director winner of 2017) certainly had his work cut out for him.

The ‘Other Side of Hope’ (winner of Fipresci Grand Prix Best Film of 2017) is a Finnish comedy-drama film which incorporates Finnish, Arabic and English languages. The film follows the two stories of Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen), a Finnish restaurant owner and Khaled (Sherwan Haji), an asylum seeker.

The beginning of the film is slow paced until the two cross paths and the storyline merges. The storyline definitely takes its time in unfolding. Luckily, the latter half of the film moves faster.

After leaving his wife, Waldemar purchases a restaurant and receives three employees. Waldemar’s persona seems tough, he after all left his wife without a single spoken word, yet his actions paint him as kind hearted and caring. The wry banter and interactions between the employees and himself is a highlight of the film and the ironic humour is played out wonderfully by the actors’ straight faces and deadpan lines.

Khaled’s heartbreaking backstory as a refugee whose experienced loss and destruction in Syria’s ongoing civil war and is now searching for his missing sister while trying to start a new life outside of Syria was executed brilliantly. Haji’s acting pulls at the heart strings.

The unlikely friendship between Waldemar and Khaled develops quickly after their first unexpected and unpleasant meeting, and Waldemar is quick and willing to aid Khaled by providing him basic necessities for survival – a roof over his head and a job.

The film features a few musical numbers from its rockabilly soundtrack and while the music was initially enjoyable I found it dragging on a bit too long.

The film ends on a slightly lacking note and while a touching reunion occurs there is still a great deal of uncertainly. Kuosmanen’s political agenda of generating sympathy for asylum seekers and depicting the realities of the European governments’ laws and treatment of refugees was at the core of the film.



National theatrical release: 29 March 2018

Duration: 100 mins

Rating: M



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