Finnish helmer Aku Louhimies (“Frozen Land”) trades the mean streets of contempo Helsinki for the barren countryside during the Finnish Civil War in “Tears of April,” but masculinity and the gray area between right and wrong remain his topics of choice. This austere, well-acted period costumer is the second adaptation of a Leena Lander novel after Dome Karukoski’s “Home of the Dark Butterflies,” and again something of the original’s lure seems lost in translation. Still, fests have already discovered this highbrow item, and ancillary sales should be anything but lachrymose.
In early 1918, the Senate-supported “Whites” fight the Russia-backed “Reds” for supremacy. Idealistic White Aaro (Samuli Vauramo) escorts his feral femme POW (Pihla Viitala) to judge Hallenberg (Eero Aho), who, he hopes, will treat her fairly. But Aaro didn’t count on the war having warped Hallenberg’s sense of justice, or the fact Hallenberg might be sexually interested in him, as he is in his beautiful (but largely mute) prisoner. Despite the many outdoor locations, expertly captured by d.p. Rane Ronkainen in color-drained widescreen, the narrative plays like a chamber piece. Period details are unobtrusively evoked on the pic’s small budget.