Le Havre sees Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismaki back in France for another feature film, and tells the story of Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), an elderly shoe shiner, struggling to make ends meet for himself and his wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen). When Arletty is taken ill and hospital bound Marcel fills his spare time by harbouring an African boy (Blondin Miguel) and attempting to reunite him with his mother across the shore in London.
The film opens with a sequence that seems quintessentially out of place in terms of tone, fitting for a crime thriller as opposed to a dramatic-comedy, acting as a bizarre metaphor for Marcel’s life. However, it’s not long before the audience is swept up within the tale of a man doing his all with the little he has. Andre Wilms plays Marcel brilliantly, taking a reserved approach yet still managing to compel. It’s easy to sympathise with his character, making his harbouring efforts (even in his current situation) all the more emotional.
The script isn’t without its flaws though; plot holes present themselves in the form of convenience and ease, pushing the
film along in a simplistic manner leaving certain sub plots unexplained. We’re never fully told the motives of the Inspector, and a fund raising event allows our protagonist to find his feet far too conveniently, negating the whole tone of the down-on-his-luck theme that is so apparent. Rather ironically too, the concluding elements of the film could be stated to have more in common with Hollywood than the generic European narrative.
However, minor flaws aside, it can’t be denied the film is compelling in the true sense of the word. Emotional scenes flourish in heartfelt fashion; comedic touches pop up at the perfect moment, allowing for just the right balance of dramatic conflict and comedy. It’s very much a character journey, and Andre shines as Marcel, living a very ordinary life yet achieving extraordinary things throughout the course of the narrative; it’s sure to put a smile on your face.
European cinema takes pride in its ability to separate itself from Hollywood in both content and style, and for the most part Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre is no different.
Out Now in Arthouse Cinemas nation wide on a limited release