Finnish maverick J-P Valkeapää’s third film has everything: a terrific title, a death in the family, a time jump, teenage angst, adult angst, lousy parenting, hallucinations, remorse, guilt, a dog eating human discards and a whole lot of BDSM. It also knows that any self-respecting movie in which a dominatrix’s whip unleashes emotional healing should liberally use reds taken from the palette of Nagisa Oshima’s notorious take on sexual experimentation, ‘In the Realm of the Senses’.
Every five-year-old knows red means danger, but forlorn widower Juha (Pekka Strang, best known for the title role in ‘Tom of Finland’) forgets this when he stumbles into a torture chamber and gets taken down by Mona (Krista Kosonen, Finland’s most prominent star) with fight moves that would make the Bride in ‘Kill Bill’ proud. Mona’s futuristic bondage wear – costume designer Sari Suominen nods to ‘Blade Runner’ – also gives good visual. The numerous club scenes look like ’80s pop videos by way of Nicolas Winding Refn, which is code for saying cinematographer Pietari Peltola does a neon-tastic job. It’s all very kinky kitsch.
It’s through this happenstance meeting that Juha discovers asphyxiation makes him recall his wife who drowned in an accident some years before, for which he blames himself. Now he’s looking after his tongue-piercing teenage daughter, whose growing pains make her embarrassed about square dad. That turns to befuddlement when he starts coming home with his face looking like a Picasso. Valkeapää starts adding humour to replace the melancholy, as Juha overcomes his grief and finds this hard-knock life can turn a lost puppy into a wacky whippet.