Filmmaker Kaurismäki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’

A deadpan romantic comedy about a sad-sack couple.


“Fallen Leaves” plays at the M.V. Film Center starting on Friday, Jan. 12, at 7:30 pm. Directed by Oscar nominee Aki Kaurismäki, this comedy relies on low-key humor in a story about a middle-aged Helsinki working-class couple. The viewer first meets heavy drinker Holappa, played by Jussi Vatanen, when he loses one job after another because of his love of alcohol, shared with best friend Huotari (Janne Hyytiäinen).

Then comes Ansa, played by a talented Alma Pöysti. With Liisa (Nuppu Koivu) as the best friend she can confess her troubles to, Ansa works in a supermarket. Then a security guard catches her with an out-of-date sandwich, and she gets fired.

Her next job involves washing dishes in a bar. The catch is that her boss is caught selling drugs, and she is out of a job there, too. At home, when she listens to the radio, it’s about the war in Ukraine, which suggests the film’s contemporary nature. In fact, nothing seems cheerful in her life. As actress Pöysti says, the film concerns two lonely people who have plenty of hardships and meet reluctantly in middle age.

Holappa and Ansa meet by chance in a karaoke bar. Charmed by Ansa, and with help from a stray dog Ansa has adopted, Holappa decides to romance her. At first his efforts are comic and unsuccessful, and a bossy Ansa criticizes him for his alcohol dependence. As a result, he decides to make an effort to end his drinking. Holappa remains persistent in his pursuit, but manages first to lose Ansa’s phone number and then her address.

The story grows more and more humorous in a low-key, deadpan way, when Holappa and Ansa have dinner and then go to a movie together. The movie they see is “The Dead Don’t Die,” a Jim Jarmusch zombie flick. When Holappa asks Ansa how she liked it, her surprising response is, “I never laughed so hard.”

“Fallen Leaves” is a sophisticated comedy that takes some getting used to. Once viewers appreciate the significance of the title and understand the deadpan nature of its humor, they will enjoy this comedy.

Information about and tickets to “Fallen Leaves” are available at