Aki Kaurismaki‘s latest feature is an odd pairing of young and old, foreign and local. Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) is a down on his luck pauper type character, with several outstanding debts on the street and a dutiful wife Arletty (Kati Outinen) at home. When Arletty is suddenly bedridden in hospital, Marcel comes across Idriss (Blondin Miguel), a child who escaped the police’s capture of transported people.
Set in Le Havre, Normandy, the two quickly bond while hiding Idrissa away from the prying eyes of the antagonistic Police Inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). Members of the community in Le Harve take in the boy, and the plot is set to return Idrissa to his mother in London. However, Inspector Monet’s placement allows for the necessary cinematic tension and ensuing chase between good and bad.
Le Havre explains itself through the silent stares of its characters. Little dialogue is needed to set up the usual, necessary exposition. Moments of no sound stand out strongly, when the music finally appears, it is quite noticeably different. The music in question is quite melodramatic, reminiscent at times of Douglas Sirk films.
Issues of immigration are under explored, instead focusing on the relationship between two unknowns. Le Harve as a setting looks particularly quaint and the town’s inhabitants add an energetic flavour to the film. Kaurismaki allows for Le Havre to look both dreary and grey, and yet simultaneously vibrant, seen with the bright red jumper than Idrissa wears.
Mysterious and slow to reveal, Le Havre is charming and kooky. The pairing of Idrissa and Marcel is particularly interesting and executed nicely due to the pair’s chemistry, much of which is silent. The ending drags out a little too long, but all in all, the film’s pace grants easy access into an endearing French film.
Le Havre is theatrically released in Australia on 29 March through Sharmill Films.