Lindsay Turner at berfrois:
Deadpan, unhurried, and sensitive, Aki Kaurismäki’s 2017 film The Other Side of Hope tells the story of a young Syrian immigrant, Khaled. A stowaway who debarks in Finland accidentally, Khaled is now in search of his livelihood and his sister, who has been separated from him during the journey. Initially the film runs along double plotlines: in addition to Khaled’s story, we also have the plight of Wikstrom, a middle-aged Finnish shirt salesman who decides suddenly to change his life. He leaves his wife to her cigarettes and her nail polish, disposes of his plastic-wrapped merchandise, and gambles his way into a sum sizeable enough to buy himself a restaurant. These two stories converge quite late in the film. Khaled has been sleeping in a dumpster behind Wikstrom’s restaurant after having escaped the state-run reception center when his request for asylum is denied and deportation looms. The restaurant staff find him and take him in. What the New York Times calls “an old-fashioned humanistic fable” unfolds in a world of more-or-less hapless good will, real and unexpected warmth between characters, makeshift and often hilarious arrangements for help and protection against the forces of state and white nationalist violence, and a scruffy terrier. It’s not difficult to see why any viewer would find the movie a “declaration of faith in people and in movies.”
This description of the film hinges on a spatial binary: human decency and hospitality played out in the restaurant space versus the chill or hostile conditions Khaled finds outside it, in the street or the state-run reception center.