The Other Side of Hope (Toivon Tuolla Puolen)

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A poker-playing restaurateur and former traveling salesman befriends a group of refugees newly arrived to Finland.

The Other Side of Hope’ is the latest offbeat comedy from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, an unofficial follow up to his last film ‘Le Havre’, which also focused on the migrant crisis. It’s a small scale exploration through the view of one man, a Syrian refugee called Khaled (Sherwan Haji) who inadvertently ends up in Finland after hiding on a boat in Gdansk, Poland. The film follows Khaled as he tries to gain asylum and attempts to acclimatise to a wholly different culture from where he came from, whilst also having to deal with a variety of locals, both friendly and not.

His story intersects with that of Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a man who we initially see leaving his wife before opening a restaurant, via a diversion to win big at poker to gain the funds to purchase the restaurant. The men cross paths when Khaled is found sleeping outside the restaurant, and after an initial altercation, Wikström offers him a job which allows him to hide from the authorities in plain sight. The hijinks at the shambolic restaurant deliver many of the film’s laughs, whether it’s through the lackadaisical staff or the hilarious attempts to launch theme nights based around different food cultures.

The Other Side of Hope’ is a nice little film about individuals coming together to help their fellow man, whilst the authorities are tied up in systems and bureaucracy to consider the individuals plight, outlined at its best in an absurd sequence where Aleppo is deemed ‘safe enough’ for Khaled to return home. The film’s exploration of the refugee crisis is deftly handled and any grand statements sit in the subtext rather than at the forefront of proceedings, with the focus on character allowing a stronger look at one man’s situation in Khaled, and I felt this was a well made and enjoyable bit of filmmaking.

Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Aki Kaurismäki

Starring: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Kati Outinen, Tommi Korpela, Ville Virtanen, Timo Torikka, Elina Knihtila and Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman

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