In the punk rock era of the late 1970s three restless teenagers, two boys and a girl, spend their time in and out of a special class for problem kids. Jussi seldom sees his parents at home,...
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In the punk rock era of the late 1970s three restless teenagers, two boys and a girl, spend their time in and out of a special class for problem kids. Jussi seldom sees his parents at home, so he is free to indulge in petty crimes, pranks, and getting drunk with his friend Pete. Jussi falls in love with equally rebellious classmate Lissu (Aki Kaurismäki's favourite actress Kati Outinen in her debut role), but the lovers' plan to run away together fails dramatically. Written by
Jussi (Esa Niemelä) is a student on a special class for problematic youths in a school in East Helsinki during the punk rock era of the late 1970s. Many of his classmates come from broken homes and display different signs of rebellion against various authority figures, something that is only understood by their kind teacher "Pappa" (Pertti V. Reponen). After getting in trouble with the school once again, Jussi runs away from his home and spends days wandering around the town, with or without his classmates Pete and Lissu (Tony Holmström and Kati Outinen). Can there be a sensible solution for his desperate escape?
The film mainly utilizes a non-flashy documentary-like approach to its troubled characters. The rawness is effectively emphasized by beginning the film with footage of an authentic childbirth ("Life, here I come" indeed!) and a punk rock concert of Pelle Miljoona that sets the mood for the story excellently. True to the realistic style, the characters are not portrayed as badass street punks; most of the time they don't talk very much and often just run away when confronted, but the atmospheric style has its problems too. Since the young actors were all amateurs, they often cannot carry the quiet scenes with their charisma or screen presence only, and we are not left with much to enjoy during the long wandering sequences like Jussi and Pete's drunken night out. Occasionally the film catches a fleeting feel of fragility beautifully though, such as when Jussi sadly crawls under a playground slide to sleep. The best one of the young actors is clearly Kati Outinen who has later appeared in many Aki Kaurismäki films, but Esa Niemelä as the protagonist Jussi also succeeds decently in his first of only two credited acting jobs. None of the adult actors give any reasons to complain either.
Personally I think very fondly of the setting in East Helsinki since I was born and raised there and recognize many of the locations seen in the film, but even when observed from a more objective point of view, the gray infrastructure suits the overall style very neatly. Contrasting with the bleak suburb, the other main setting of the story is the city center with its colourful lights and busy streets. Especially the dramatic climax on the wet, gleaming streets and the ledge of the City-Center building (a.k.a. "Makkaratalo") looks very good and ends the tale of modern anxiety powerfully.
I absolutely loved Täältä tullaan, elämä! when I first saw it, but after several rewatches I've noticed that it doesn't quite hold up as strongly as I first thought it would. Some tightening of the pacing and better supporting actors could have helped the whole, but there's plenty to like in the film as it is now too. The apathetic atmosphere, lack of interest from the parents and the innocent relationship of Jussi and Lissu ring true, and the visuals are in tune with the story, so ultimately the film is a fairly enjoyable effort and well worth checking out at least once.
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