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Moral Clarity in Plurality
Ilpo Hirvonen12 February 2017
Finnish director, Aki Kaurismäki has successfully established himself as a respectable auteur in world cinema. When it was announced after the release of Kaurismäki's last film "Le Havre" (2011) that it would be followed by another film covering similar topics and themes, audiences have been anxiously waiting for his next effort. Thus, six years later, comes "The Other Side of Hope" (2017, "Beyond Hope" literally), a film that Kaurismäki wanted to get out before it was too late. One should not be surprised by such openness about the film's political agenda given Kaurismäki's usual tendencies to do so. Nor should one be surprised by the fact that "The Other Side of Hope" is everything one could expect from Kaurismäki: an immediately recognizable film belonging to the canon of his oeuvre. While some Finnish critics have been disappointed by the lack of innovation or regeneration from Kaurismäki, they have failed to appreciate that often the best artists keep doing the "same" over and over again -- think of Ozu and Hawks, for instance, both of whom Kaurismäki adores tremendously.

Like "Le Havre", "The Other Side of Hope" also tells the story about a refugee encountering a European local. The small port town of Le Havre in France has been changed to Helsinki in Finland and the North-African refugee to a Syrian. The film follows Khaled's (played by Sherwan Haji) day- to-day activities in the red tape of immigration policy, his attempts to track down his lost sister, and his conflicts with locals as well as a parallel story about a Finnish man (played by Kaurismäki regular Sakari Kuosmanen) who leaves his wife and starts up a restaurant which eventually leads him to meet Khaled.

As mentioned above, one can recognize the film as Kaurismäki's instantly. The cinematography is often static by nature (even camera movement is rather mechanic), the acting is deadpan and the actors' delivery is laconic to the bone, there is nostalgic popular music, and mise-en-scène is characterized by vintage elements from old cars to type writers as well as classic Hollywood lighting. These cinematic means often give an ironic impression which, nonetheless, never reduces the film to a parody of itself; it manages to take itself seriously while joking around, so to speak. They also constitute an extremely economic narrative where a wordless act such as the placing of a ring on a kitchen table can say more than a thousand words. In terms of tone, Kaurismäki's film lies securely in between of tragedy and comedy, cynicism and humanism, melancholy and laughter.

In this world of deep contradictions -- not only in tone, of course, but also in, say, the co- existence of vintage elements in mise-en-scène with modern technology -- Kaurismäki's characters often find themselves to be strangers. They are strangers essentially in two senses. First, they are strangers of society; they are thugs, loners, divorced, unemployed, homeless, and refugees. Second, they are strangers of existence; their being in the world is twisted in the sense that they talk absurdly little, do not notice the absurdities of the fictive world with its contradictions, stand still for long periods of time, and can suddenly announce that they will move to Mexico City for a change of scenery without giving rise to any trace of astonishment in their interlocutors.

It seems to me that Kaurismäki's phenomenology of strangeness, if I may give it such a hasty word, has gained significant new dimensions in his contemporary cinema of global ethics. The strangers of "The Other Side of Hope" find comrades in each other without a need to announce it. They are the global working class with no nation. They are a plural bunch whose shared humanity overcomes individual differences. In a key scene echoing "Le Havre", there is a moving montage of human faces as the refugees in the reception center listen to a wordless ballad by Khaled. It is a very Kaurismäki-esque moment of cinematic personality, but here the strangeness seems to articulate heavily moral meanings in particular.

While the film is unapologetically moral and political in its message and agenda, it also comes across as a good piece of cinema with a poetry all its own (that is, the cinematic poetry of Kaurismäki's cinema in general, to be precise). Like many other films by Kaurismäki, sea is an essential element, which might represent the film's success in finding a place between poetry and politics. "The Other Side of Hope" begins with a beautiful shot of the Baltic Sea. To Peter von Bagh, a Finnish film critic and historian, all cinematic images of sea are masterful. The beauty of the sea is easily captured in a way which makes everyone a master. Yet, in order for us to care about these images, something has to happen -- either in terms of story, theme, or aesthetics -- in their appropriate contexts. In this sense, Kaurismäki delivers. The other side of hope, or its vague image in the world beyond, finds its elusive face on the surface of the sea. When Peter von Bagh passed away in 2014, Kaurismäki promised to dedicate his next film to von Bagh's memory, adding that "only if it is good enough." He did.
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A film with a fantastic personality
paulijcalderon17 March 2017
There's no doubt about it, Aki is back once again with a wonderful film. "The Other Side of Hope" basically tells two stories. First there's an older Finnish man who opens a small restaurant. And then there's a Syrian man who finds his way to Finland in order to start a new life. As you can probably guess, these two stories find a way to connect. And in a surprisingly good and heartwarming way.

It was interesting to see the two cultures interact with each other. I love the kindness that so many characters bring with them. The film finds an excellent way to mix humour with drama while also bringing up some relevant issues. Many of the restaurant scenes are very funny and they made me laugh. While other scenes like when a character plays music from his homeland one final time before being deported almost brought a little tear to my eye. The entire thing is still packed with all the classic Kaurismäki elements. You can almost do a drinking game; "Point out all of Aki's personal tropes". I have to say that some of my favorite parts were whenever they were trying to change the restaurant in order to fit in with the modern times. It was almost metaphorical. It's like the filmmakers themselves had never changed, but the world around them did.

Timo Salminen's cinematography is on point with excellent use of framing and colors. I admire that they still use film instead of digital. Aki is very similar to Tarantino in that subject. He has said that if they weren't able to use film he would stop making movies all together. I hope this is not his final movie. I feel like he has many stories left to tell. I'll be here waiting for whenever a new one comes out, because I never get tired of the personality that comes with his work.
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No website describes movie attractively, unjustly scaring potential viewers away. Allow undercooled humor to grow on you. Berlinale jury awarded Silver Bear for best director
JvH483 March 2017
Saw this at the Berlinale 2017, where it was part of the official competition for the Golden Bear. The synopsis on the festival website was not really promising, but my prejudice disappeared gradually during the screening. Although the movie has a certain inclination to become a fairy tale where everyone will live happily ever after, the ending has some darker sides to downplay the assumed optimistic story. One of these darker sides lies in the several times appearing "Finland security" men, who are up to no good.

Our first main protagonist Khaled is seeking asylum in Finland. From the outside, it looks like a very clean process as far as shown to us. The idle waiting time related to the asylum application procedure does hide the rough edges we often read about, namely that asylum seekers among themselves are making trouble when seeing others with a different religion or other political position, or even worse when seeing GLBT behavior that they are not prepared to allow. Intolerance can be very problematic here, given that the people are packed together, while at the same time being bored to death, doomed to wait, unable to do anything useful. Due to their numbers and possible variations in asylum seekers, it is a sheer impossible task to sort and separate them in such a way that such troubles are prevented. In this movie, however, the asylum seekers are living harmoniously together, and help each other where they can without seeking favors in return. What does Finland do what we apparently are doing wrong in The Netherlands??

Our second main protagonist Wikström follows a completely different path. On a random morning, he leaves his wedding ring and house keys with his wife, who is clearly alcohol addicted. He sells his stock but keeps the storage space (will become unexpectedly useful later). What also proves useful is his poker face, and he succeeds in multiplying his amount of cash considerably, to the extent that he can buy a restaurant including staff. The capabilities of the restaurant staff that he takes over with the rest of the inventory and furniture, do not look very promising from the outset, but he keeps them nevertheless.

For the first 30 minutes or so, the stories of above two main protagonists run their completely separate course. We see them in turns, both paths clearly delineated, simply by having other people and another decor visible. After his asylum request being denied, and just before being transported to a plane to be sent back, Khaled escapes and starts an uncertain life on the street. He is found sleeping between the trashcans by fresh restaurateur Wikström, from which moment on their lives become mingled.

The restaurant business does not go as well as may be hoped. Given the quality of the staff that he inherited when buying the restaurant, it can be no surprise from the first day on. For example, when someone orders sardines from the menu, that seems to mean that he receives a half opened can. More humor follows later on when they try out different restaurant types, e.g. sushi being prepared out of a cooking book. Other experiments also hardly succeed. A surprise inspection is handled in a way not exactly by-the-book but they pass. These humoristic scenes are intermixed with the more serious main line of the story.

The story includes a series of lucky strikes and happy coincidences that is overwhelming, bordering on statistically impossible. But otherwise there would have been no story to tell, so who am I to complain. The musical fragments we witnessed, most in cafés or restaurants, even one where Khaled plays the sitar (is that the proper name?), albeit not relevant to the story itself, are included (I think) as ornamentation or as local folklore, or simply happened to be available and deemed a waste when left out.

All in all, this movie is much better than what the average synopsis promises. On the other hand, it is not easy to describe what it is exactly that makes the movie attractive. The serious undertone cannot be overlooked, given the hostilities encountered by Khaled, and the motivation for the denial of his asylum request is also a farce, based on wrong facts that we see refuted on TV, and gives Finland a bad name. However, the parallel story with Wikström and his restaurant takes good care of ample relief from the heavy material. I usually lower my expectations when a book or movie builds on two or more parallel story lines, by assuming that none of the stories could offer sufficient material to stand on its own feet, but this time my prejudice proved unjustified. The way both stories were mixed without disturbing the logical flow of events, may be one of the reasons this movie was awarded by the International Jury of the Berlinale 2017.
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Deceptively simple but powerful experience
Kapten Video11 June 2017
Remember the pretty boy Ronan Keating singing that you say it best when you say nothing at all? Of course you don't, you only listen to good music. But this could be the very motto of Finnish legendary moviemaker Aki Kaurismäki's latest. This minimalist masterpiece is so achingly simple and elegant and yet so complex in a good way, that there's no really good way to describe it, if you don't understand Kaurismäki's style already. „Toivon tuolla puolen" („The Other Side of Hope" in English, „Teispool lootust" in Estonian") is like a haiku: it can convey so much with so little words and even so little action. I can't find fitting comparisions here, but Kaurismäki comes across like Jim Jarmusch's less snobish cousin: even more concentrated on what it's like to be human and small things that life is actually made of. They both value storytelling through details but Kaurismäki's approach is more mainstreamfriendly: you don't have to invest yourself fully all the time to make sense of what's going on exactly. „Toivon tuolla puolen" offers two bittersweet stories interwining, about refugee in strange and hostile land and old entrepreneur who leaves his wife and finds fresh start in running a diner. It often feels like comedy – Kaurismäki's approach could be called Finnish version of Soviet nostalgia that many 30-year or older viewers will respond to and enjoy. Judging by Estonian premiere, it's a real crowdpleaser. But deeper down it's more about bleak and sad side of human existence: loneliness, being unwanted, trying to find purpose when everything has fallen down. And, of course, about how there's no winning with nowadays' refugee crisis – it brings suffering for everyone involved, except for maybe those who like to attack people who „shouldn't be here". I give this quietly hilarious and heartbreaking masterpiece a near- perfect score. Although it doesn't break new grounds for Kaurismäki, I can't think of a way how it could be improved in any meaningful way. The movie's not gonna satisfy everybody, nothing will, but it's almost perfect the way it is. Deceptively simple but powerful experience that you can't imagine getting from anybody else than Kaurismäki.
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A Laconic meditation on Islamic Immigration in Finland
alexdeleonfilm21 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed at the 67th Berlin Film festival, Feb. 19, 2017. Kaurismäki is not the kind of director's name that is likely to attract many customers to American cinemas but here in Germany his is a name to be reckoned with and any new Kaurismäki film is sure to be a sellout. This was the case, in fact, at every screening of his 2017 competition entry TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN --The Other Side of Hope -- (or maybe Hopelessness) -- which carries on his established one-man tradition of wry commentary on the lives of losers trying to survive on the underbelly of Helsinki.

In the present picture some of the losers are undocumented Islamic immigrants and others are local losers who either attack them or try to assist them in various floundering ways.  The central character Khaled (Sherwan Haji) comes to Helsinki as a stowaway buried in coal on a boat he thought was going somewhere else. He then wanders the streets in black-face until directed to a public shower. He has been wandering all over Eastern Europe trying to find his sister, the last survivor beside himself of his Syrian family. He, of course, speaks no Finnish so has to communicate with Finns in English. Khaled keeps running into violent hostility alternating with poker faced kindness, but at last confides in another Arabic speaking buddy that he has fallen in love with Finland and wants to stay.

Eventually he will be taken in by a very oddball new restaurant owner (Sakari Kuosmanen) given a menial job and supplied with false ID papers.  Kaurismäki films are known for their dry humor but in this one the humor is so dry it nearly evaporates. No torrents of laughter, as one reviewer enthusiastically gushed. However, there is one scene that is simply rip roaring hilarious when the new inexperienced restaurant owner trying out various  schemes to increase business turns his eatery into a pseudo Sushi spot -- and the fumbling attempts by all of his help to look the part are as outrageously funny as any Marx Brothers classic. The climax of this sequence is reached when, having run out of the usual fresh salmon needed to top the sushi, the boss (Kuosmanen) decides in a pinch to use heavily salted Finnish herring confident that generous gobs of hot Green Wasabi will cover up the strange taste. Most rib tickling. Especially if one is familiar with the insidious power of the innocent looking Japanese version of mustard known as Wasabi!

It is almost on the other side of hope to attempt to describe a Kaurismäki film in words because the words his characters speak are so anti-logical, the events so implausible (By ordinary standards) and the story so largely conveyed by the images we see.  However, what is notable in this film is the apparent fairness with which the Finnish immigration authorities treat undocumented new arrivals in the face of totally illogical racism that is also found everywhere. At the very end, our hero, Khaled from Damascus, is knifed by a sordid Finnish attacker who thinks he is killing a Jew! -- Aki's way of showing how stupid the indiscriminate hatred of die-hard racists can be. What's the difference? -- Jew or Arab -- as long as there is somebody to hate. And knife ... Khaled has found his long lost sister but the question we are left with is, will he live to tell the tale. A title at the very end informs us that this film is dedicated to the memory of late Finnish critic, historian, filmmaker, and general filmology phenomenon Peter.von Bagh, who was a close friend of Aki's and passed away just two years ago. Mr. Von Bagh would certainly have loved this film. Aki, who is known to be a very heavy drinker, was quite sober at his press conference, but was apparently too loaded to take the stage and personally accept his Silver Bear for Best Director at the closing ceremony of this year's festival. In the context of standing Kaurismäki logic this makes perfect sense. 
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Other Side of Hope
Indie Cinema Magazine23 February 2017
The Other Side of Hope tells the story of a Syrian refugee and the challenges he meets in Finland. The film features his typical cinematographic style but the picture itself is disappointing.

It is clear that Kaurismäki is much more at ease describing Finnish people. His Finnish characters are very funny and colorful, however when it comes to the refugee characters, he becomes shy and unimaginative.

The main character Khaled is probably a very good person but he is a very boring character. More than that he does not look like a refugee; he looks neither tired, hungry or frustrated. He reminds one of a successful salesman or a post-doctorate student.

His story is not compelling and his acting is not convincing. Kaurismäki received a specific commission and when making this politically correct movie he was afraid of making fun of foreigners or their religion. He even made the character an atheist which is highly unlikely for people from this country.

Occasionally the film was funny, but only in the segments featuring Finns, The plot is not very interesting and does not have any twists or surprises. When undertaking this theme, Kaurismäki has shown that he does not know the topic or want to know it. Perhaps the biggest motivating factor was the funding he received to make this extremely politically correct picture.

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black-comedy at it's peak
Marwan Wael11 November 2017
i kept laughing in the cinema and watched my favourite movie in 2017 so far , the director was brilliant in making an equilibirum between dying of laughing and shedding tears . the decor in the movie was excellent ,all the actors did a good job and Sherwan Haji made an excellent performance ,the colors were just showing the mood of the scene (brilliant decor) ,the movie was so simple in its style yet so complicated in showing the refugees suffering
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Classic Kaurismäki - Dry humour, existential, hugely warming
KrissyG29 May 2017
Syrian refuge Khaled arrives by sheer chance in Finland from war- torn Aleppo. We follow him as his application for asylum is processed. He is befriended by an Iraqi refuge at the refuge centre, and his journey in Finland begins here.

The officials are coldly efficient - with flashes of humanity - in a kafkaesque depiction of meaningless application of migration laws.

At the same time, Finnish businessman, Waldemar Wikström, buys a business and the two - very different - worlds of the main characters collide.

The humour is dry, the Finnish 'tango' (ballad-singing) music is wonderful, I absolutely loved it. It is worth seeing the film for this alone.

It is a super 'feel good' film, without the viewer quite being able to put a finger on why this is so.

It is the sheer humanity of it.
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A Kaurismaki classic, full of his absurd realism
MdeTourn18 October 2017
The Other Side of Hope is a Kaurismaki classic, full of bittersweet sarcasm and existentialism, if by the latter we mean an honest reflection of what is. It also contains some great music, although I sometimes think that it is how he lets music exist in his films that makes it great, rather than the music per se.

By centering his story around a Syrian refugee in Helsinki, the film brings forward the view of the migrant/refugee, and that is very important,because we do not only see the European view of the Other; Kaurismaki enters the Other's reality in modern fortress-Europe. It helps us think what it really means to be a young man/woman stuck in these postmodern concentration camps, waiting for some bureaucratic agency to review your asylum application and define, from some thousand miles away, whether the hell that you fled from can be officially called "war" or whatever. Or what it means to carry this burden and walk in the same streets with the "true Finns" or other nationalistic, xenophobic scums. It also depicts the power of solidarity, albeit in Kaurismaki's typically sarcastic manner.

Anyhow, Kaurismaki always seems to take a certain distance from the things he narrates (some call him a snobbish filmmaker, others may claim that he makes a caricature of his characters), but his magic lies on the fact that it is precisely this distance (plus tons of alcohol, apparently) that makes his films so honest and humane. There is always a certain absurdity in play, yet to me Kaurismaki does realism in the most accurate meaning of the word. You exit the cinema and you see (and hear) this absurd realism applied all over the city. This film is no exception. It may not be his "magnum opus", but his kind of artists doesn't need this bourgeois terminology at all. It is what you make of it.
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Kaurismaki's refugee comedy
Jithin K Mohan10 November 2017
When you hear that the plot is a Syrian refugee who's being helped by some Finnish people to lead his life and find his estranged sister there may be some expectations. Then when you hear its a comedy you expect something else. But only those who are familiar with Kaurismaki will expect something like this. The best moments of the film is the sequences that proceed without any dialogue but through the actions of the characters that subtly speaks volumes. Kaurismaki's deadpan humor works perfectly with the plot. The detached characters helped the quirky humor without forsaking the importance of the themes handled.
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A Syrian in Helsinki
Ruben Mooijman27 March 2017
After 'Le Havre', this is Kaurismäki's second film about refugees. This is a hot topic, now even more than ever. Europe is still trying to digest the influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq, a process with major political consequences.

There is no doubt about Kaurismäki's moral position. The lead characters in 'The other side of hope' don't even discuss if they should help the Syrian refugee Khaled, they just do it as if there is no other choice. In perhaps Kaurismäki's most political scene ever, a police officer tells Khaled that Aleppo, the city where he came from, is not unsafe according to the Finnish immigration authority, so he should be deported back to Syria. Immediately after the verdict, Kaurismäki shows a news report on Finnish television about the atrocities going on in Aleppo.

The complete lack of emotions, a trademark feature of Kaurismäki's work, adds an extra dimension to the message. The refugee doesn't complain, his protectors don't discuss, the violent racists don't explain. Everything just happens.

Of course, this being a Kaurismäki film, there are the typical elements of his movies: the fifties aesthetics, the deadpan humor, the stripped-to-the-bone dialogue. Music is also an important element in this film. It is, without exception, source music from musicians playing in bars, café's or in the street. It is all sung in Finnish, but has a very bluesy feeling, perfectly matching the overall mood of the film.

The screenplay has a special structure: for the most part of the film, the viewer is watching two separate stories. One is about the refugee Khaled entering the country as a stowaway in a cargo ship, trying to find his way in society and being processed by the immigration authority. The other is about a business man trying to revive an unprofitable restaurant. Of course, the two are destined to run into each other.

Kaurismäki is one of those film makers whose style is unique and doesn't resemble anything else. For that reason alone, his work is worth watching. In this film, he adds a political message which is as urgent as can be.
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GManfred6 December 2017
"The Other Side Of Hope" is a pleasant enough story and, at 110 minutes, doesn't make a pest of itself. It is part drama and (small) part comedy, but the comedy is so subtle as to be negligible. As related in the summary, an immigrant and a businessman find each other and form a friendship/partnership sort of an alliance. I wish I could relate some high points in the narrative, but this movie has neither high nor low emotional highlights.

I am trying to watch indies and foreign films as I am weary of Hollywood's tripe, but this film doesn't give you much to root for. It is too bland, and I'm sorry to say it needed a Hollywood writer to punch it up some.
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a film that makes you look directly into the face of the hopeless to hear the voice of the dispossessed
CineMuseFilms16 April 2018
Most of us have never had a 'refugee experience'. Many have read about it and some take a close interest, but usually it is something that happens to others in distant places. The confusingly labelled comedy-drama The Other Side of Hope (2017)is remarkably effective in bringing the refugee experience right into our face. Once seen, it is hard to regard it as only happening to nameless people in faraway lands.

The narrative frame has a haphazard quality about it, as if the audience has stumbled upon a vantage point from which we can see two hopeless lives randomly collide. After finally walking out on his alcoholic wife, dour Finnish salesman Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) throws the sale proceeds from his business into a high-stakes poker game and makes a small fortune. After buying a run-down restaurant, he encounters Khaled (Sherwan Haji) sheltering among his rubbish bins. The Iraqi refugee had arrived in Helsinki via a coal-cargo ship while fleeing for his life. Refused refugee status and held for deportation by heartless Finnish authorities, Khaled is stateless, friendless, and homeless. Waldemar offers him work and shelter and tries to help him locate his sister who became lost while trying to escape the Syrian Civil War.

The story contains little humour. Its 'comedy-drama' label comes from totally deadpan performances that verge on absurdism, aided by a dark, almost noir filming palette. Most of the sub-titled dialogue is delivered without expression, which emphasises the heartless world into which the refugee is pushed. Dramatic situations that cry out for emotional expression are left cold, and it is this denial of the natural that most hits the viewer. For example, when the Finnish immigration official interviews Khaled for his refugee status, the honesty and sadness of his story are overwhelming yet not a trace of emotion is evident in either interviewer or interviewee. When Khaled is asked what he wants, the depth of his despair is in his words, not their expression: "I do not matter".

An element of the unexpected can add to the enjoyment of a movie, but perhaps not in this case. If you expect an entertaining comedy-drama from a nation well-known for its dark quirky humour you may be disorientated and possibly disappointed. The intention of this film is not to entertain, but to confront, inform, and engage. As global refugee problems continue unabated, The Other Side of Hope does not offer comfort or clarity, and this is reflected in its open-ended conclusion. The film's major achievement is how it makes us look directly into the face of the hopeless and hear the voice of the dispossessed. It leaves a heavy footprint.
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Finnish ex-salesman saves Syrian refugee in Helsinki
maurice yacowar13 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Probably Kaurismaki's most topical film, this is a paean to the pluck and courage of the immigrant and to the humanity of the citizens who support them. It may cover the same plot and territory of his Le Havre (2011) but the European and American debate over immigration gives it a new urgency. The title works two ways. The desperate Khaled seems beyond hope when he pulls himself out of a coal bin. He escapes battered Aleppo only to be rejected by the Finnish asylum board. But the timely kindness he gets from strangers is also beyond anything he could realistically hope for. Street people magically materialize to drive off the redneck Liberation front determined to kill the "camel rider." The Iraqi refugee and the blonde worker he befriends at the centre reveal an indefatigable generosity. Khaled fulfills is mission to save his sister Miriam (evoking the earlier emigre Moses and his sister Miriam) thanks to the generosity of the truck-driver and Khaled's own resolve to cling to his fading life long enough to see her through. Like Moses, Khaled doesn't get to the promised land either. Khaled's chief support turns out to be Wikstrom, an unlikely hero in any other vision but Kaurismaki's. Wikstrom is a traveling shirt salesman whom we meet as he abandons his woebegone wife. Seeking renewal, Wikstrom buys a down-at-heels restaurant which he struggles to revive - along with the downtrodden staff the previous owner had exploited and abused. The bond between Khaled and Wikstrom begins when they quarrel over home space. Wikstrom won't let the Syrian sleep in his garbage area. They exchange nose punches, then Wikstrom feeds him and provides a job, fake ID and a storage unit home. Wikstrom's generosity ends up saving his staff, then Miriam, and ultimately even his wife. His leaving shook her out of her alcoholism and she's running her own modest business. They resume their marriage and she will be his new hostess. So the film traces two men's unusual transcendence, the immigrant and the salesman. Of course, in Kaurismaki's usual tone, there are no large emotions or grandiose effects. The faces are all proletarian, plain, appealing in humanity not beauty. Conversations are banal, silent stares long, baleful, empty. The camera rarely moves and very little ever happens - just the quiet unfolding of people with small, tender and moving lives. Wikstrom finances his restaurant purchase at a big stake poker game. In the climactic hand he's up against four aces - as strong a hand as one can expect. But Wikstrom's winning royal flush is the lowest hand you can get: the two, three, four, five and six of clubs. That moment encapsulates Kaurismaki's vision and style. The lowly, the most unprepossessing and bathetic, they win because they are the bedrock of humanity.
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On this side of hope
jack-ker11 February 2018
"Good people everywhere" is the main message of Aki Kaurismäki, who accompanies the whole film "Toivon tuolla puolen".

The action takes place in the time of the day. A refugee from Syria Khaled (Sherwan Haji) acts like all sensible refugees who left the country in time of war - go to the police, seek refuge. After going through a complex bureaucratic apparatus of registrations, interviews and living in the Refugee Center, he finds no support in the person of the Finnish government.

Based on the analysis of the situation in Aleppo (the city where the protagonist fled), it was revealed that the conflict in the city is not at the stage that could be a threat. The Commission came to the conclusion that Khalid does not need additional protection and decides to deport him to his homeland.

That same evening, in the news on television, Kaurismäki puts a check on all the bureaucratic apparatus of the Finnish system - in Aleppo, military actions are continuing until now, the authorities find the situation in Syria "extremely disturbing".

This move, seemingly so simple, reflecting the real state of affairs, puts in one corner ordinary people, refugees, and, on the other hand, the authorities of Finland, how they relate the data presented for public viewing - through the media - and then, as they actually do, they deport Khaled to the city where military operations are taking place.

But Kaurismäki does not seek to make a furor or scandal, he as an observer philosopher compares the data he has (in other words - with us) to analyze the situation. And he does it so skillfully that he layers the second storyline - about Vikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) - which leaves the drinking wife, breaks with the past business, selling wholesale shirts, and starts to open the restaurant. The truth does this in a very nontrivial way.

Kuosmanen was a real discovery for me. A great actor who is at that age to play the real bosses, directors, builders of his life. Whether it's an episode in a closed poker club where Wikström plays serious people in poo-and-dust, earning himself a comfortable future, or in a business office where he rigidly frames the framework according to which he is ready to purchase an establishment, or in the restaurant itself, where he, as a matter of fact, for the first time in this business, is looking for ways to popularize the institution and earnings (of which, incidentally, there are many comical situations).

Two story lines go along along the road to connect sooner or later. And the soundtrack is exclusively live music. No recordings, records or tracks, exceptionally live performance of ordinary Finnish performers, whose singing and music penetrates into the very soul. And although the lyrics remain a mystery to ordinary ordinary spectators who are not familiar with the Finnish language, it remains clear that they all serve one purpose - to support the characters, to hold them to each other, so that everything ends on a happy note.
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A fine film with a timely topic
proud_luddite22 January 2018
In modern-day Helsinki, the lives of two characters are followed: Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) is beginning a new life as a single man and opening a new restaurant; and Khaled (Sherwan Haji) is a refugee from Allepo, Syria seeking asylum in Finland.

This film deserves credit for taking on a subject that continues to grab headlines and personalizes it. The Finns in this movie are mostly portrayed as generous and fair-minded with a few exceptions: some are seen as idiotic government bureaucrats (an international problem), and others are seen as downright nasty thugs (a bigger international problem).

The directing style by Aki Kaurismaki is in his usual style of being deliberately austere and distant with moments of dry humour. It works well mostly but there could have been room for a few moments of deeper emotion considering the subject matter.

A shocking twist at the end does give the film some jolt but the ambiguity of the situation (which is also far-fetched to a degree) is unsatisfying. Despite this, "The Other Side of Hope" is a fine film. As it focuses mostly on Khaled, Haji comes off as a very fine anchor for the movie.

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Powerful and necessary
damgutman9 August 2017
Having read several positive reviews and being aware that the film won important prizes in festivals like the Berlinale I was expecting this film to be shown in my local art-house movie theater. It certainly lived up the hype. The film follows two characters that later on cross paths: a Finnish salesman who divorces his wife, sells everything and opens up a restaurant and a Syrian refugee (Khaled) who ends up in Finland by accident and seeks for asylum.

I will not expand anymore in plot details. Kaurismaki mixes in humour in its right measure (some people might find it ridiculous but being the Finnish such an unknown and different culture for me I found it really interesting) with the difficult realistic events that unfold. Moreover we are shown a perfect radiography of a society that is not of the ones that is more "affected" -due to its geographical location- with war and refugee issues in the present and how people react differently and of course the everywhere present neo Nazis.

It's a very realistic film so I'd advice potential viewers who read IMDb reviews not to expect extraordinary events neither sophisticated acting. The acting is monotone in purpose and it suits the mood of the movie perfectly. Music is very important in the film and it helps one to immerse even more in its mood. It's a pity that -at least in my country and I guess pretty much everywhere- it's shown in only a few movie theaters. It would raise awareness and demonstrate people that there is great cinema all over the world.
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The raw side of truth
angelikafauve7 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Kaurismaki doesn't embellish the truth. Truth is, that hope and life goes together. So that emigrant and novice restaurateur - representing both and in turn, hope, in European now days some aspects of a cruel reality. Each other in turn, face a cold, repulsing reality: The young Syrian refugee, the fact that has lost family and home, in bombardments of Aleppo, Syria. Now is seeking to build a new life in distant Finland. Why Finland? Cause this country has a good reputation on treating civil rights. But hope seems to deem slowly as soon after he is told that his application for asylum is rejected cause of not enough documentation on reasons he narrated to the police officers. On the other hand, things do not go better for the stout Finnish - recently restaurant owner. He is with no wife since he left her drinking on the morning table. He also abandoned his job of man's shirt retailer, taking the price to play poker cards, in a playing club near the official casino of the city. What he earns, invests in a restaurant business with three people stuff: the gate keeper, the cook, the waitress. To all three then added Khaled, the Syrian refugee as Wikstrom makes acquaintance of him close to restaurant trash-cans. All seem go right as Khaled sister is found by track-driver Wikström friend, on Lettonia's borderline, and brought back to Finland to fulfill her brother's strongest wish. But things doesn't happen as supposed to occur: Restaurant doesn't make the intended success, but both, protector and his protected (Winkström and Khaled) face - with optimism and pessimism going together - another Kaurismaki strong point, the defeat of their hopes: the first turns back to his wife, the second chooses to die by not going to hospital, wounded deathly from a Nazi's member gang, who warned him from the very first time they saw him and attacked him, in a street's coin: "I told you Jew, next time I find you, I kill you".
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Cinema should be entertainment
pacolopezpersonal-2205720 August 2017
So realistic film that sometimes looks like a documentary. It describes the labyrinth that an immigrant has to follow from Syria to Finland to discover the whole story hidden behind the "Refugees Wellcome" in Europe. Nothing surprising. We all already know. There are those who go to the cinema to leave the problems aside alike someone who goes to a restaurant to eat something special or both things; not to be remind you of the T.V. midday news. There are affirmations of the protagonist as: "we go to the bar where the infidels drink" and on the other hand "I have no religion" that contradict each other. You don't know if the final message of the film is: "do not come to Finland that all this can happen to you". Or the best friend of a man is a dog.
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Kaurismäki tells a story, to his perennial template of deadpan humour, old-time music, and drab settings, of a Syrian refugee
Christopher Culver9 October 2017
In Aki Kaurismäki's 2016 film TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN ("The Other Side of Hope"), the Finnish auteur continues a theme he explored in LE HAVRE from five years earlier: refugees fleeing to Europe and forced to survive when heartless officials and some locals are against them. While that earlier film was shot in the comparatively exotic setting of the eponymous French port, TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN returns to Kaurismäki's familiar stomping grounds of downtown Helsinki.

The film consists of two converging plot lines. In one, the aging salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen, a longtime member of Kaurismäki's acting stable) leaves his wife, wins a lot of money in a poker game, and decides to open a restaurant. In the other, the Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives in Helsinki after fleeing war-torn Aleppo and wandering across half of Europe, but he is worried about his sister that he got separated with along the way. Wikström and Khaled eventually meet and become friends -- or the closest thing to friends that Kaurismäki's exaggeratedly cold and morose Finns can get to each other. Before that, however, the Wikström plot line serves to inject some humour, albeit of an extremely deadpan sort, into a film that, though Khaled, explores the depressing lives of refugees who are shuffled from one center to another and forced to wait for their cases to be processed.

For three decades now, Kaurismäki has made all his films to a very distinctive template that virtually never varies. Its characters speak a minimum of dialogue to each other and show little expression on their faces. The sets are drab in colour and deliberately anachronistic, with gadgets, vehicles or clothes from the 1950s alongside computers and mobile phones from our time. At some point, a band will appear on stage playing oldies rock, blues, or Finnish tangos as the characters look on.

TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN doesn't stray from that template either. Still, the script has enough fresh moments to it that it will feel worthwhile even to longtime Kaurismäki films who have sat through this template many times before. Some of the humorous bits are laugh-out-loud funny, but overall this does feel like a darker film than most of the director's work. It is ultimately a choked, restrained cry of rage at the way that refugees are treated, by a Nordic society that prides itself on fairness, equality and charity. While Kaurismäki is roughly on the left politically, several of his films have attacked the Finnish welfare state for its opaque bureaucracy and its reduction of human beings to mere papers in a government file. This film continues that critique by depicting the refugees, who come from many countries but manage to band together to lend each other help, as the sort of neighborly solidarity that Kaurismäki prefers to faceless bureaucracy.

I personally wouldn't find this the best introduction to Kaurismäki. His earlier film MIES VAILLA MENNEISYYTTÄ ("The Man Without a Past") depicted with more meat on its bone a down-on-his-luck man lost among bureaucracy, while the über-idiosyncratic romantic comedy VAROJA PARATIISISSA ("Shadows in Paradise") is one of Kaurismäki's best achievements in deadpan humour. Still, TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN seems to tell a story universal enough to pull on everyone's heartstrings and is worth seeing.
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Needs a little while, but then becomes fairly entertaining
Warning: Spoilers
"Toivon tuolla puolen" or "The Other Side of Hope" is a Finnish 95-minute movie from this year (2017) and the newest work by the country's most known filmmaker ever I guess: Aki Kaurismäki. He has not worked on new projects since 2013, so expectations may be a bit high for this one here, but eventually they are not disappointed, even if the big awards recognition the Berlin Film Festival gave this one may be slightly exaggerated. This is basically the story of two men: a refugee (yep current issue) and a Finnish man who needs to sort out his professional life again at a relatively high age. Early on we see them for themselves before they meet each other and this is probably where the movie is at its weakest. The interactions aren't too interesting to be honest. The part with the lady talking about going to Mexico was just plain weird, even if some people in the audience of my showing found it funny for whatever reason. And the early scenes with the refugee felt fairly forgettable and generic as well in my opinion. These were part of when the film took itself more seriously than it really should. I think it was at its very best when they just went for the comedy really, i.e. for example when they turn the restaurant in an Asian restaurant. Evidence of this is enough when there is a reference to an Indian restaurant and audience members (including myself) thought this would be their next attempt, but it was an actual Indian restaurant. The restaurant scenes were just the best, especially the parts that included the bearded guy working there.

The ending I wasn't too fond of either unfortunately. It's once again too much drama and I expect more than random stuff about fascist wanting to set immigrants on fire or stabbing them. Also the way they were depicted as idiots calling him a Jew did not feel as convincing or smart as it was supposed to. So yeah, I definitely wish this could have been a much lighter work. The final shot certainly shows us that the drama is dominant here and not the comedy. But that's of course personal preference. other audience members may have liked the drama parts much more than the comedy. Anyway, Kaurismäki also includes some music in here and with that he goes back to the roots of his Leningrad Cowboys filmmaking days. I thought it was a solid little addition. As a whole thanks to the middle part basically I enjoyed the watch overall without being too enthusiastic about it and I also think it ended up not half as deep in terms of characters or story-telling as Kaurismäki would have wanted it to be. But why does it have to. It can work for other reasons too and actually it does. I wonder if Finland will submit it to the next Oscars. The subject is one that certainly can help it in scoring a nomination. But it's still a long long time until then with this year's Oscars only being a month in the past. Make sure you see this little film if it plays near you. You will not be disappointed. Just don't travel miles for it.
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A Very Finnish Movie
evanston_dad19 January 2018
No offense Finland, but you seem kind of weird.

An odd sense of humor pervades this film about a Syrian refugee trying to find his sister while dealing with his own struggles as an undocumented immigrant in Finland. He's befriended and aided by an aging restaurateur and his motley staff. There are lots of dead pan moments, and you're forgiven if you're not always sure whether or not you're supposed to be laughing.

One thing that struck me about this film was the vast difference between what Americans are told about European countries and their attitudes about refugees and how those countries actually feel about them. America has been shamed for not opening its doors to those in need, and I agree that it should more than it does. But we're told that Europe is altruistic and warmly embraces those fleeing from other countries. Not so in Finland, if this movie is any indication. Immigration officials roam the streets asking people for their papers, and something resembling the White Nationalist Movement seems to exist there as well, full of thugs who go around beating up people who look foreign.

I enjoyed this movie, but couldn't help but feel that it missed some opportunities to be a bit more hard hitting than it is.

Grade: B+
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