If you bend toward the sweet deadpan embrace of Finland's Aki Kaurismki, then you should appreciate---and might also be slightly disappointed by---his latest. As ever, Kaurismaki assembles a lovable cast to embody a quiet, wry tale that's a lot like a fable; the director has elsewhere been more adventurous (1990's The Match Factory Girl) and more perceptive about the human condition (2002's The Man Without a Past). But his adorable, stage-set--like locations and spare conversations have a timeless appeal, even if they fall close to preciousness and barely seem applicable to the real world. This is textbook Kaurismki, neither fresh nor unwelcome.
Set in a gentle version of the title port city of northwestern France, Le Havre mainly follows Marcel (Wilms), a shoe-shiner and scrappy survivor whose home life is rocked by the sudden illness of his devoted wife, Arletty (Outinen). Playing out in tandem is an immigrant drama, as wide-eyed West African boy Idrissa (Miguel) flees his shipping container and goes on the run, soon falling into Marcel's gruffly paternal company. The movie's empathy is such that you know one right will be returned by another. That's a nice world to pretend to be in for an hour and a half; don't dig too deeply. These symbolic characters have little to say about modern Europe, just a whiskery vision of warmth that only a heartless viewer won't appreciate.
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