After having been less than impressed by William Markus' 1957 chamber drama Miriam, I was sceptical about the quality of the director's earlier comedy Neiti Talonmies from 1955. In spite of my worries, the movie proved out to be an adequately watchable little flick even if many aspects of it leave room for improvement.
As for the obligatory plot description, Neiti Talonmies begins when a teenage girl named Irja Sassi (Nelly Lovén) becomes an orphan after her mother dies. Her landlady immediately kicks her out and she movies to the local school to work as a caretaker and assistant to the teacher (Asta Backman) but has to eventually move again after the teacher gets married. Irja gets another job as the janitor of a big school led by the stern headmaster Kuusi (Tauno Palo) and is keen on continuing her own studies on the side. Many problems are encountered during her years at the school but the self-confident Irja sorts out all difficulties in her education and love life.
At first the movie feels slow and cumbersome; the actors come across as stiff and theatrical as if they are all trying too hard to be comedic, especially Nelly Lovén in the lead role and Backman as the teacher of the small school. The same situations keep going on for ages without much progress and the transition from one school to another is rather clumsy (the teacher character is dropped out of the story so bluntly that it makes you wonder why she had such a big role to begin with). In addition, the romantic "twist ending" in the roller-coaster of the Linnanmäki fun fair is glaringly obvious from early on although seeing and riding the good old Vuoristorata cannot be anything but fun. Tauno Palo is at home in his slightly nerdy role though.
Later on Lovén's inexperience as an actress begins feeling less distracting and her sarcastic, even feministic charisma starts coming out quite enjoyably. The many clips of her doing chores of the big school carry a pleasant breeze from old times and are fun to watch despite the snail-like pacing of the plot. Harry Bergström's original score is excellent too and often steals the show from the images in a good way. To sum up, I ended up enjoying Neiti Talonmies alright since the music and lead performances are good enough to make up for the lack of a gripping story. So, the movie makes decent entertainment for a lazy afternoon any time.
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