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Le Havre - DVD Review

Le Havre

Review by Louise Carleton

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ON PAPER the synopsis of Le Havre reads like your typical sob story with the heart-warming fuzzy ending that puts everything right, but as clichéd as it is to say, there is no other word other than heart-warming to describe the latest film from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki.

Set in the French port city of Le Havre, Aki Kaurismaki tackles the sensitive issue of refugees and the treatment they are often subjected to in European society.

Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) is an optimistic bohemian boot shiner living a meagre existence with his devoted wife Arletty (Kati Outinen). His simple life is, however, unexpectedly turned upside down when Arletty falls sick, which also coincides with the discovery of a group of illegal immigrants found cowering in a shipping crate.

One refugee is the young boy Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) who, upon seeing a window of opportunity, manages to escape the clutches of the authorities by running away and hiding.

The lives of Idrissa and Marcel soon cross paths when Marx finds Idrissa hiding, hungry and alone. They discover and build up a reliance on one another and what soon develops is a deep friendship, with Marx dodging and fighting the police in order to keep Idrissa safe.

Such a difficult subject matter could be depressing, and although Le Havre is shot in dull grey tones and often location and characters are reminiscent of a drab bygone era, the deadpan humour of Kaurismaki is always hiding beneath the surface, sure to elicit laughs from the audience and lighten the load.

Both Wilms and Miguel give commendable performances. Each gives substance and meaning to their characters and complement one another nicely.

Although the subject matter could work well in other European cities where illegal immigration is a problem, the location of Le Havre is a nice touch, with Kaurismaki noting he chose this location because its ‘the city of blues, soul and rock ‘n roll’ – indeed, Le Havre features an abundance of blues and soul yet it has a fun and optimistic final outlook.

It is a must see for foreign film fans.

In French, with subtitles

Certificate: PG
Running time: 93mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: July 30, 2012