Aki Kaurismäki’s latest film is a sweet and gentle French comedy drama about a shoeshiner named Marcel Marx (André Wilms) who befriends a child immigrant who is being hunted by the authorities.
The plot is meandering and often feels aimless, but this is part of its charm, and Kaurismäki leads us along at a leisurely pace with a delicate touch. He coaxes out a charming and at times very touching performance from his leading man, and also harnesses the abilities of his supporting actors well. Blondin Miguel, as the young African child is marvellous, but the real gem is Kati Outinen as Marcel’s terminally ill wife. Her performance is the most beautiful thing about the film, which is high praise when confronted with so much talent available to cherish.
It’s also nice to have a good, well-acted, superbly directed film for a mature audience that doesn’t contain extreme violence, pornographic orgies or strong language. I’m not someone who tuts each time a character says the f-word or penetrates a prostitute (if it’s narratively justified, I have no complaints) but it is refreshing to have a film that carries a PG rating and isn’t just aimed at 10-year-olds.
This is a gorgeous little gift of a movie, and will all too quickly vanish from cinemas. If you’re able to still catch a showing, or come across the DVD later in the year, I urge you to watch it. Such good-hearted warmth shouldn’t be missed.
Le Havre (2011), directed by Aki Kaurismäki, is distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye, Certificate PG.