The true story of a long-forgotten Finnish featherweight’s crack at the world boxing title in the late 1960s is the jumping-off point for this unexpectedly lyrical drama about life’s innocent pleasures – and surely one of the year’s most charming arthouse treats. Captured in atmospheric 16mm black-and-white, Juho Kuosmanen’s film is a deceptively simple recreation of the run-up to the big bout. Jarkko Lahti is Olli Mäki, a wiry, modest 25-year-old country baker and fighter who struggles to cope with the hype whipped up by his ambitious manager. Really, he’d much prefer to be spending time with the new love he’s just met at a wedding.
Thanks to Lahti’s instantly likeable performance, we’re soon rooting for him, and the movie slowly reveals itself as a parable about all that is lost when professionalism, greed and image-conscious PR muscle in on the purity of sport. With its loving recreation of the period, this is a must for vintage design fans. But what’s most remarkable is how the film somehow avoids the trap of twee nostalgia. Instead, it’s an authentic celebration of the timeless delights of country bike rides and skimming stones. Absolutely lovely.