The 17th annual European Union Film Festival is at the Gene Siskel Film Center. It’s one of my favorite film events of the year, and I’ll give some quick capsule reviews on the films I manage to see throughout the fest.
Mika Kaurismäki’s Road North (Tie Pohjoiseen) (Finland, 2012) is a pretty conventional dramedy – a dour concert pianist (Samuli Edelmann), who is very near to losing his own family, is paid a visit from the now old-and-unconventional rascal father who abandoned him as a small child (Vesa-Matti Loiri, an extraordinarily successful comic actor and singer in Finland). A road trip, of course, ensues. There isn’t much here to recommend narratively, but the film is a good example of how non-American comedies routinely trust subtext over schtick and character development over gags and repetition. For all of the ‘lessons’ inherent in the story, it’s surprisingly unsentimental; no one is outrightly humiliated for their conformity (or lack thereof), and what redemption may exist at its conclusion is by no means a sure thing. It’s a pleasantly diverting little family saga that’s less about its formulaic good ideas than it is about avoiding the conventionally bad ones.
‘Road North’ screens on Friday, March 28th at 6:00 p.m. and Tuesday, April 1st at 8:00 p.m.