When the Helsinki restaurant where Ilona (Outinen) works is taken over, the new owners decide not to retain the existing staff. To make matters worse, Ilona's tram-driver husband Lauri (Väänänen) is made redundant. There are a few jobs around and the couple are no longer in the bloom of youth. Will their marriage survive the belt-tightening and the blows to dignity that unemployment brings? The potentially depressing subject matter is superbly offset by Kaurismäki's customary deadpan brand of gently absurdist comedy, by the use of primary colours in the set designs, and by the quiet yet real sense of supportiveness that imbues Ilona and Lauri's relationship not only with each other but with their friends and colleagues. As ever, the performances from Kaurismäki regulars are understated to the point of minimalism, but the writer/director treats the lives, aspirations and anxieties of his less-than-beautiful losers with such unsentimental affection that we care about every one of them (Ilona and Lauri's magnificently solemn mutt Pietari included). As ever, too, the semi-ironic use of music (Tchaikovsky, old-fashioned tango), Timo Salminen's subdued, precise camerawork, and Kaurismäki's miniaturist's eye for the telling detail yield rewards aplenty.
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