After Kesäillan valssi (1951) proved out to be very successful among the public, an independent sequel Onnelliset was produced a few years later, continuing the style of writing a drama story around Oskar Merikanto's music. Most of the central actors reprise their roles, notably Eeva-Kaarina Volanen and Leif Wager who play Annina and Lauri Alanko, the couple from the first movie still happily married with a young son. They are not completely financially secure, so Lauri agrees to take up a job of accompanying a famous opera diva named Delia Rosati (Maaria Eira) on her European tour. Delia's seductive advances toward Lauri put his faithfulness to Annina to a tough test but the young wife is not without attention at home either: her friend and employer Veikko Kuusi (Leo Riuttu) has grown very fond of her and is favoured by Annina's bourgeois mother.
If Kesäillan valssi focused on the beginning of Lauri and Annina's relationship with light little songs and almost comedic atmosphere, the sequel s clearly more mature and serious in its approach to the characters. Like the first film, Onnelliset feels a little divided in the middle: the first half is dedicated to portraying the development of Lauri and Delia's relationship, while the latter half focuses on said relationship's effects on Annina and her family. The pacing is rather slow and big emotions only occasionally bubble up to the surface. There is also some social commentary about the political situation of the early 20th century when Finland was still under the command of the Russian Tsar. I know I criticized Kesäillan valssi for being too lightweight for its own good but here it feels like such a problem has been overcorrected and everything feels too dry and serious. It could also be a good thing though, since all viewers can now choose their favourite of the two movies based on their personal preference between comedy and serenity.
The songs that were one of the driving forces behind Kesäillan valssi appear to have been moved to the side as well in Onnelliset. Now a lot of the melodies are performed by Delia in her concerts which may alienate some viewers because her high-pitched soprano voice may feel too classical to fit in with lighter music. Eeva-Kaarina Volanen gets to sing very little and I was hoping Wager would take the stage more often too. Their best moment is probably their duet of the titular "Onnelliset" which naturally sounds very pretty. However, I must repeat my complaint about Volanen's acting; she still comes across as too joyous and carefree in her role, as if Annina never quite grasps the whole situation. The little girl playing her son Erkki is also totally annoying. Nevertheless, Leif Wager (now with a funny little moustache) and the real-life opera star Maaria Eira are enjoyable to see throughout.
Even though the realistic themes of marital issues, jealousy and guilt are basically a welcomed addition to the "franchise", I do not think they are handled in a very gripping way here after all. The very ending can be called a little lackluster and too easy as well. Still, Merikanto's music, some of the locations and Delia's singing montages are very nice, so Onnelliset is worth seeing if you liked Kesäillan valssi. As a standalone drama it is not among the cream of the crop of Finnish classic cinema though.
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