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A sort of "Divorce Finnish Style," Mika Kaurismäki's rambunctious comedy, The House of Branching Love , recounts the breakup of a thirty-something professional couple - Juhani, a family ... See full summary »
From the start on it is clear that this movie has a beautiful setting and prominent, talented actors. The soundtrack is so close to what you would expect that you hardly pay any attention to it most of the time. Yet as you continue watching you'll begin to wonder if this is your average mystery thriller after all. By the time the credits roll up, you're sure of it.
What ultimately causes the movie to fall apart is the plot. The role of the mysterious events in the past is augmented and the tension keeps building up, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats until suddenly the original conflict is seemingly forgotten and the film takes a focus on another series of misfit events. The viewer thereby is provoked to think up ways to link the two of these mysteries together and form a solution, although the characters in the movie are somehow completely oblivious to the idea. A couple of very intriguing characters and relationships are also presented, none of which turn out to connect to the key events either. To put it simple, there are just overwhelmingly more pieces that one needs to complete the puzzle. Most of the time when you are certain you picked up an obviously intentional hint and are waiting for the moment to call out "I knew it!", it just never comes and you are being offered an abundance of hints leading elsewhere instead. This movie certainly surprises you all the time but only because it gives you no chance of guessing the next turn of events.
In longer run, the plot doesn't slowly unfold, rather it is a game of passive guessing and not-so-surprising revelations that are rubbed on your face. Towards the end you just stop guessing and semi-reluctantly take whatever the film has to offer. After that they get twisted and canceled out by both past and present events so that in the end the viewer DOES have to do some piecing-up. This dynamic and chaotic nature of the movie is naturally brought up and supposedly justified by the main character's amnesia, but this movie rides on the flashbacks too much to keep the audience with it.
In the end, I couldn't even really tell what the theme of the movie was. The tagline supposedly lives up to its name ultimately but the middle portion of the movie deals with melodramatic relationships and surprisingly enough, problems of the Finnish health care system. Every time there was a longer cut between the scenes I could sense the audience holding their breath wondering if the credits would roll up or not, and eventually they did.
Still the movie has its merits which aren't to be neglected. The actors were convincing playing their roles even though I've mainly seen Petteri Summanen do comedy pieces before. The settings and props were on par with Hollywood films and overall I couldn't just believe they spoke Finnish in a film of visual beauty of this magnitude.
To sum it up, perhaps this movie should have been put together better. All the ingredients of an excellent film are clearly present but they aren't properly in their place. The plot is too complicated with fractured timeline but also seems to have a lot of air in it. I couldn't really recommend this to fans of mystery genre unless you're okay with not being able to solve or even find too much logic in it.
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