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Le Havre (2011)

Starring:

André Wilms

Blondin Miguel

Elina Salo

Evelyne Didi

François Monnié

Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Jean-Pierre Léaud

Kati Outinen

Laïka

Little Bob

Patrick Bonnel

Pierre Étaix

Quoc Dung Nguyen

Umban U'kset

Vincent Lebodo

Directed by:

Aki Kaurismäki

Rating: 7/10

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: France, Finland, Germany

Le Havre is a not terribly exciting port in Northern France and home to Marcel Marx (Wilms), a kindly old gentleman who’s still got a spring in his step. The film follows his exploits as he tries to reunite a young illegal immigrant (Miguel) with his family over the water in London whilst dealing with his wife’s serious illness.

Aki Kaurismäki is well known for taking on gritty urban settings and giving them an upbeat, quietly humorous feel. Le Havre is no different as the town’s unremarkable back streets and harbour districts are displayed with a cinematic panache that could make Middlesbrough look like a romantic place to grow up and fall in love. The humour is fleeting and always understated and takes place sometime in serious situations and sometimes in ridiculous ones too but there’s also intelligence here as Kaurismäki takes a look at the French’s conflicted views on immigration. This will certainly appeal to fans of Jim Jarmusch and even the Coen Brothers.

A big success is the likeability of Marcel Marx, the lead character, who we never learn too much about except that his life has gone downhill since his bohemian days in Paris. It’s his actions that talk though and his selflessness and joie de vivre (I can’t stop talking in French… clichés) that instantly make you root for him. There are also other memorable characters who add to the movie’s charm, including the old school Detective Monet (Darroussin) and Marcel’s accommodating friend Claire (Salo).

Unfortunately, Le Havre goes off the boil a little in the mid-section and goes all Saturday morning teenie Saved by the Bell drama with cheesy ideas like ‘we need money, lets organise a concert!’

In the end, I’m left wanting to know one thing – who is Little Bob?

It's Got: Understated humour, great characters, an intriguing setting

It Needs: A bit more momentum, a few slightly less childish plot strands

DVD Extras It's got interviews with Wilms and Darroussin and live performances from Little Bob - a bit lightweight but interesting DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

A Serious Man, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Mystery Train

Summary

A unmistakable Aki Kaurismäki vehicle that’s likeable, amusing and intriguing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite have the momentum to take it past ‘that was nice’ territory.

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