Of the few Finnish films I’ve had the opportunity to see, director Aku Louhimies’ name appears twice. His multi-strand drama “Vuosaari” [Eng. Title: Naked Harbour] is certainly the better of the two (the one I’m comparing with is his earlier Levottomat).
Set in and around Helsinki, the film unravels several parallel but unconnected stories – the common feature being its focus on relationships within each respective environment. We follow a druggie-couple, hoping against odds to make a fresh start, a doting single father and his son, a precocious teenager desperate to become famous, the son of an immigrant single mum who suffers bullying in school, a wealthy family’s failing marriage and the husband’s extramarital affair, a young boy aching for love from his indifferent mother and finding companionship through his pet dog, and a terminally ill mother and her child coming to terms with what lies ahead (the most moving story among all).
The film doesn’t analyse these relationships as much as observe them sympathetically. Some are melodramatic, while the others are quite dispassionate. The stunning winter-wonderland backdrop acts as a stark contrast to the despair, foreboding, and misery of the characters’ lives. This peculiarity also appears to be a very Finnish facet from what little I know about the country and their cinema – you sometimes wonder whether it’s the cold climate that does this to them. And this is not even a depressing film – it resolves several stories in a rather upbeat fashion, and there is plenty of love and humour in the film too! In any case, what struck me about the film more than anything else is the exceptional performances by ALL the main cast, young and old. This after all reflects on the quality of the screenplay, shot selection, editing and importantly, the direction. The other positive in the film is its breathtaking cinematography, aided of course by the marvellous landscape and some good set design. Despite the convenient and sloppy ending to one or two of these stories, I thoroughly enjoyed the film for its most part, and it is for that reason that this is Recommended Viewing!
Laura Birn, Amanda Pilke, Matleena Kuusniemi, Pekka Strang, Lenna Kuurmaa, Mikko Kouki, and Teemo Heino
As suggested by this list, a good chunk of the adult main cast, male and female, appear nude in the film, but they’re all brief, relevant, and incidental.