These two lonely people are a match made in Heaven.
“Fallen Leaves” introduces us to two lonely people who both lose their crappy jobs, spot each other on Karaoke Night, have a date, and then struggle to spark a relationship due to certain issues. Writer/director Aki Kaurismaki (“The Bohemian Life,” “The Other Side of Hope”) gives their story less than 81 minutes to figure out themselves, and when their love story will take off.
Set in Helsinki, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the two single people are named Ansa (Alma Poysti), which is a first name and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), which is a last name. If they do marry, she would be known as Ansa Holappa.
Ansa gets fired for trying to take expired food from the grocery store and immediately loses her dishwashing job when her new boss turns out to be a drug dealer. And Holappa drinks too much because he is depressed. He ends up injured in accident due to faulty equipment, but gets fired due to his drinking.
They meet at Karaoke Night, though not through introduction. Just when they gaze at each other, while their friends are talking And when they do finally speak, he invites her for coffee and a trip to the cinema to see “The Dead Don’t Die.” It’s a crappy movie with a deadpan sense of humor, and the girl does make wisecracks from time to time, so it kind of makes sense that they see this movie.
They both decide to reunite, only for Holappa to lose her number. Before you think it’s an old-fashioned case of lost people finding each other, they do reunite, but she dumps him because of his alcoholism, especially when he treats her kitchen like a bar.
While he’s boozing his sorrows away like he has nothing to lose, she makes better use of herself with construction work, while taking in a stray dog, who is discovered at the factory. Trust me, she has a better sense of humor with her new pet than Will Forte did in “Strays.”
“Fallen Leaves” is more interested in the two main characters than their friends, who support them through their troubles. Holappa’s friend (Janne Hyytiäinen) tries to be his voice of reasoning when it comes to drinking and smoking, while Ansa’s friend (Nuppu Koivu) tries to defend her when the grocery store fires her. I think there should have been more of their optimism and character studies, because they seem essential.
It’s usually supporting characters who help bring out the best qualities of their friends, but then again, we should look at this movie a different way. After all, it is an international film that doesn’t want to cater to American audiences with cliches. So, that’s a refreshing, especially when certain movies like “Five Nights at Freddy’s” or “The Marvels” don’t do anything original with their scripts. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to see this movie with the supporting characters, or maybe I can. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
The majority of the emotions of the characters is kept within their tones, and both Poysti and Vatanen are universally excellent. They don’t succumb to cliches, but rather try to get through life. The girl has better luck than the boy, and we support both of them along the journey. Can these two be a perfect match for each other. Can the boy recover from his drinking problems? Anything is possible.
Kaurismaki likes to smooth things out with his script and character development. Does everything have to be so negative? No. Can these characters be people audiences can relate to. Yes. It’s a small reflection of life, and we’ll probably see something like this again. I should hope so.