“I’m depressed because I drink and I drink because I’m depressed.”
Fallen Leaves is the International Feature submission for Finland. The film is about Ansa and Holappa, two lost souls in Helsinki who live simple lives and who are struggling to make ends meet. Ansa currently works at a supermarket but she’s fired when she steals expired food. Holappa struggles to stay sober long enough to get through an entire shift at work. Like Ansa, he is also fired. As both of them try to rebound to find new jobs, they meet by chance at a karaoke bar. It’s love at first sight.
After a few failed attempts to meet up, they finally have their first date. Holappa takes her out for coffee. As Ansa goes off to get a cinnamon roll, he pulls his ever-present flask out of his inner jacket pocket. She’s not impressed. Her father and brother both died due to alcohol. He then takes her out to a movie, The Dead Don’t Die. It’s not a film they both liked but either way, they both agree to another date. Ansa gives Holappa her phone number and he loses it a minute later. And so begins the tale of yearning between these two characters who are grinding away in life.
Fallen Leaves isn’t a particularly complicated or a dense film, but it shows the beauty that surrounds us in unlikely places, like an old dive bar or a movie theatre that’s already seen its best. It’s deeply alert to the sensory pleasures of the world. The film dances around the love of these two lonely people, who are both struggling to stay afloat in an expensive city like Helsinki. Ansa and Holappa search for warmth, within each other, and the light in the darkness. Life doesn’t have to be so bleak just as long as one can escape it and find comfort in the things that one enjoys the most.
It is a comedy that is sweet without ever tipping into sentimentality. It is a romance between two lonely people who, for a time, appear to have no hope of finding happiness. It is, occasionally, a musical. It is, at time, a sobering reminder of the war in Ukraine, as heard throughout the radios in Helsinki. And, most importantly, it’s a film about alcoholism and the dangers of it.
The green leaves of spring and summer depict hope, renewal and revival. Blazing yellow, orange and red leaves of fall represent the change of season. Ultimately, fallen leaves complete the circle of life.