An interesting take on the refugee crisis that is sweeping Europe, this Finnish film manages to insert deadpan comedy within a complex drama about a man who has made it to Finland from Aleppo, Syria, fleeing the war with his sister. After country hopping and eventually boarding a ship carrying coal, he immerses himself within it to remain hidden. His rise from this coal is a powerful way to begin the film, he has lost contact with his sister but knows inside that she is still out there, still alive.
Meanwhile, a well-off businessman promptly divorces his wife- who reacts in an amusing fashion- and after he loads up his car, we have no idea where the story is heading. One thing seems sure; these characters will converge at some point in the movie, but the sheer difference between the two and their situations makes this very hard to guess. Khaled finds himself in an immigration centre of sorts, awaiting his fate as a group of magistrates will ultimately decide if he can stay in the country.
On the other side of the tracks, Waldemar has left his wife, intending to start a restaurant. It becomes hard to imagine how the two characters will meet given this vast contrast, as Waldemar is clearly a no-nonsense, blunt character who says what he thinks and does what he wants. And has cash to spare.
Waldemar goes about his business to raise enough money to buy and establish a restaurant. After accomplishing this, when putting out the rubbish one day, he sees Khaled sleeping next to the bin. Waldemar isn’t happy, though Khaled wryly replies that Waldemar is standing in his bedroom. Despite this a tense confrontation, there are somehow still laughs. The combination of drama and comedy is seamless. Despite this rough start, the two become acquaintances of sorts- friends seems like a bit of stretch- but Waldemar hires Khaleb in exchange for Khaleb having the opportunity to have a roof over his head.
Most of the laughs come from Waldemar’s attempt to run his new restaurant. Proving he knows very little about what he is doing, he can’t seem to attract the crowd that he needs, and he resorts to changing the theme of the restaurant multiple times. His attempt to turn it into a sushi restaurant- which is popular he is told- is especially funny as the inept employees don kimonos and Japanese-looking headbands. Behind the scenes, what is happening in the kitchen truly proves how pathetic the staff are as they make sushi while simultaneously reading books on how to make sushi.
Khaled struggles a few times with skinheads of the area, a clear statement that there are major problems in Finland, and neighbouring countries, with immigrants arriving in their country. One could posit that this is due to the fact that these European countries are made up of almost entirely white people, and being used to this and suddenly having different cultures arriving; it is understandable that the less accepting citizens of Finland are not keen on the idea of immigrants coming into their country. It is a disgusting attitude, but it is certainly a factor and it is well represented here.
The Other Side Hope is a very interesting film, and certainly a different take on the arrival of immigrants to European countries. The decision to insert deadpan, typically Scandinavian humour is a gamble but it pays well, as the film is never depressing despite Khaleb’s desperate situation. But that situation and its severity is somehow never lost. The last act of the film at first doesn’t make sense, especially the ending, but upon further reflection, it all falls into place. One of the best movies to watch about immigration in Europe.
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