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THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI
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last update 15.Apr.17
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Graduation
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE   Bacalaureat
dir-scr-prd Cristian Mungiu
with Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici, Rares Andrici, Vlad Ivanov, Orsolya Moldovan, Tudor Smoleanu, Alexandra Davidescu, David Hodorog, Petre Ciubotaru, Gheorghe Ifrim
ivanov and dragus release Rom 20.May.16,
UK 31.Mar.17, US 7.Apr.17
16/Romania 2h08

CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
london film fest
Graduation Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu tells a grounded story that's packed to the brim with details about characters, situations and culture - so much so that it never feels like a scripted movie. Even as it deals with big themes, the film is never pushy or melodramatic, letting events unfold to gently convey a powerfully challenging message.

Eliza (Dragus) is a top student with a scholarship to a British university. The day before her final exams, she's attacked by a stranger, which leaves her badly shaken. Her concerned father Romeo (Titieni) doesn't want her trauma to derail her future, so he speaks to well-connected friends, each of whom owes someone a favour and could use one from a top doctor like Romeo. Meanwhile, his wife Magda (Bugnar) clearly knows about his mistress Sandra (Manovici). And Romeo worries that Eliza's older boyfriend Marius (Andrici) will talk her out of moving to the UK.

Yes, there's rather a lot going on in this normal family, and everything converges at the same time around Romeo. Intriguingly, he never panics, continuing to try to do the best he can in every situation. But in this case that means bending his ethics, which are already wobbling due to his infidelity. The camera follows him tightly through every scene, watching him come up with each idea as he investigates Eliza's attack and confronts each person in turn.

These are exceptionally well-drawn characters, beautifully they're written and played. Each has his or her own personal issues that inform their actions and opinions, so watching them try to come together on anything is riveting. It's impossible to predict where each encounter might go, although as we get to know each person we begin to have an idea. Titieni creates an astonishing tightly wound stillness at the centre. And Dragus, Bugnar and Manovici find extra depth in their roles.

Essentially, the film is exploring the soul of a nation straining to emerge from decades of corruption. Owing someone a favour is a way of life here, so you help others because someday it will come back to you. The film is packed with layered conversations about how this affects everything from personal interaction to top politicians. And everyone seems aware of both the need to clean up the mess and the fact that sometimes it the wrong action is the only way to do the right thing. It's also a rare film that never shouts these things, merely telling a gripping story that leaves our heads spinning.

12 themes
1.Feb.17
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The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki
4/5   Hymyilevä Mies
dir Juho Kuosmanen
prd Jussi Rantamaki
scr Mikko Myllylahti, Juho Kuosmanen
with Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, Eero Milonoff, Joanna Haartti, John Bosco Jr, Deogracias Masomi, Shamuel Kohen, Pia Andersson, Henri Waltter Rehnstrom, Petri Hytonen, Nelly Nilsson, Carl Lyback
lahti and milonoff
release Fin 2.Sep.16,
UK/US 21.Apr.17
16/Finland 1h32

CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
london film fest
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki A true story, this Finnish film looks like a movie from its period but is shot and performed with doc-style realism. The combination is breathtakingly original, as it feels like we are time-travelling to watch the events unfold. And director Juho Kuosmanen fills every scene with beautifully observed details that are often wickedly funny.

As he prepares to challenge the American world champion (Bosco) in 1962, young featherweight boxer Olli (Lahti) and his girlfriend Raija (Airola) move in with his trainer Elis (Milonoff) in Helsinki. With the nation's hopes on his shoulders, Olli is followed by a documentary crew, meets sponsors and poses for pictures with beauty queens. But Elis thinks Olli is distracted because his feelings for Raija are getting serious at just the wrong time for his career. While his main focus should be on dropping the needed weight, he's thinking about his future with Raija.

Shot in vintage black and white, the realism is underscored with wry comedy. For example, in the opening sequence Olli and his friends discuss his boxing career in whispers during a wedding ceremony, before rain washes out the reception. The story unfolds at an easy pace, getting deep under Olli's skin as everyone reminds him that his big match will be the happiest day of his life. Even though he has the nagging feeling that something else might be even better.

Performances are offhanded and almost startlingly natural. Lahti gives Olli a complex emotional life. He refuses to take the expected triumphant approach to the big fight; instead, Olli is consumed with his blossoming romance, develops terrific camaraderie with his gym-mates and refuses to trash-talk his opponent. Opposite him, Airola has a relaxed intelligent charm, taking their relationship through twists and turns that are sweet and strikingly realistic. Meanwhile, Milonoff gives Elis a driving ambition that makes everyone wonder who wants this championship more.

As as cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi dexterously follows Olli, the film echoes the style of the Dardenne brothers, whose approach was also mimicked by Aronofski for the The Wrestler, which takes a different approach to a similar setting. Kuosmanen's bravura filmmaking results in a stunningly inventive biopic, as well as a sports-themed film that brilliantly captures the surfaces but digs much deeper to find the real story. It's also a rare movie that undermines its complexity with a bracingly simple theme that resonates crisply and clearly.

12 themes, nudity
11.Apr.17

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