Carbon Arc Review: Fallen Leaves

I am the Artistic Director at Carbon Arc Cinema, part of a group of programmers who choose the films we screen. An earlier version of this review appeared during my coverage of the 2023 Atlantic International Film Festival. 

Written and Directed by Aki Kaurismäki | 81 min | Carbon Arc Cinema 

Since the early 1980s Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki has been carving out a unique cinematic voice in a series of deadpan, humanist comedies. This winner of the Cannes Jury Prize represents much more of the same, which is wonderful.

Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) are two stubborn denizens of Helsinki. Ansa works hard and will take any job that pays, but she won’t be disrespected. Holappa is equally committed to work, but his struggles with alcohol tend to undercut his successes. All this while the radio constantly reports the atrocities in Ukraine, which has to affect the Finns in an entirely different way than it does us. The anxiety and bleak reality of their lives makes for a lonely existence, but when they cross paths in a karaoke bar they’re immediately attracted to each other. Circumstance keeps them apart even after a terrific date  to Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die.

I love the aesthetic simplicity of the film, the universally flat line-deliveries, and the filmmaker’s clear passion for old-fashioned melodramas that inform the story. I need more of Aki Kaurismäki in my life.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.