×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘A Moment in the Reeds’

A prodigal son and a Syrian refugee are thrown together in the Finnish countryside in this spare, intense gay romance.

Director:
Mikko Makela
With:
Janne Puustinen, Boodi Kabbani, Mika Melender, Virpi Rautsiala. (English, Finnish dialogue.)

One hour 47 minutes

There’s an admirable quiet intensity to “A Moment in the Reeds,” a first feature by London-based Mikko Makela set in his native Finland. Superficially similar to “God’s Own Country,” this bittersweet tale of attraction between a prodigal son and a refugee worker is both a more straightforward romance for much of its runtime and a sadder one in the end. It’s sold to a few territories already while touring primarily gay fests.

Thin, blond Leevi (Janne Puustinen) has reluctantly returned home to help father Juoko (Mika Melender) fix up the family summer cottage before it’s put on the market. Though they’re doing their best to be civil, it’s a strained reunion: Leevi clearly still blames his taciturn dad for murky circumstances around his now-deceased mother’s departure long ago, while Juoko can find scant common ground with a gay son who’s run off to Paris to study literature.

Leevi isn’t the handy type, so his father has grudgingly hired a laborer through an agency to help with the renovation. To his intense annoyance and his son’s amusement, that turns out to be Tareq (Boodi Kabbani), a handsome, hirsute Syrian refugee who not only doesn’t speak Finnish (yet) but otherwise proves to have more in common with Leevi than with his employer — he’s an architect doing manual labor just temporarily, until he’s improved language and other skills in his newly adopted nation. Thus Juoko is stuck having to use his son as translator, since the two younger men are both English-fluent.

When Dad has to deal with a business emergency, leaving the others alone overnight, Leevi raids the cottage beer supply, and a sweaty, shirtless summer evening on the porch turns into a mutually passionate night inside. Later, Juoko’s extended absence — his financial woes are forcing the cottage’s sale — allows time for feelings beyond the physical plane to be expressed. Though there are a couple of fairly explicit scenes, one of the most impressive aspects of “Moment” is how utterly convincing the leads are in persuading us of their characters’ shared ardor in less overtly sexual moments. If these actors are faking that affection, they’re doing a pretty amazing job.

The effectively spare, apparently semi-improvised screenplay (a credit notes “additional dialogue by the cast”) deals with various forms of repression, leaving some significant matters only glancingly discussed. Neither Leevi nor Juoko is inclined to articulate all the discordant issues between them, and newcomer Tareq has left one complicated situation for another — fleeing persecution and war but still tethered to the cultural norms of the family left behind, for whom he has to live a closeted “double life.” Any future he might have with Leevi (who has no intention of leaving Paris) would be difficult to orchestrate, at best. In any case, that proves irrelevant when the narrative closes on notes of abrupt conflict that are perhaps not fully satisfying but feel true enough in their raw-wound nature.

“A Moment in the Reeds” is deliberately spare in all departments, heightening impact through restraint. Thus there’s no musical scoring at all until past the two-thirds mark; Iikka Salminen’s cinematography is plain at first, waxing more lyrical as emotions grow warmer. Other contributions likewise turn budgetary limitations into a virtue. The small cast is expert, suggesting a lot of rehearsal time was put into deepening characterizations. This may not be an ambitious or particularly original film, but more first features would benefit from a modest narrative scale explored with this much detail and assurance.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'A Moment in the Reeds'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, June 24, 2018. (In Frameline. Also in London, Goteborg, Seattle festivals.) Running time: 107 MIN. (Original title: “Tama Hetki Kaislikossa.”)

Production: (Finland—U.K.) A Wild Beast production. (Int'l sales: The Film Collaborative, Los Angeles.) Producers: Mikko Makela, James Robert Watson, Jarno Pimperi. Executive producer: William R. Carter.

Crew: Director, writer: Mikko Makela. Camera (color, HD): Iikka Salminen. Editor: Makela, Jojo Erholtz. Music: Sebastian Kauderer, Luke Richards.

With: Janne Puustinen, Boodi Kabbani, Mika Melender, Virpi Rautsiala. (English, Finnish dialogue.)

More Film

  • Ken Burns

    Ken Burns, Library of Congress to Present Documentary Award to 'Flannery'

    Documentarian Ken Burns is partnering with the Library of Congress and two philanthropic organizations to present a new award to “Flannery,” a documentary about Flannery O’Connor. Filmmaker Elizabeth Coffman and Jesuit priest Mark Bosco will be presented the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film on Oct. 17 at the library. The award includes [...]

  • Palazzo BarberiniPalazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy -

    International Execs Descend on Rome as MIA Market Serves Fresh Films, TV Dramas, Docs

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries kicks off today with hundreds of international buyers descending upon the Eternal City for four-days (Oct. 16-20) of presentations of fresh top-notch mostly European product and dealmaking done in a more relaxed setting than Mipcom. The new concept mart now at its 5th edition, which [...]

  • Former Orange Studio Exec Andrei Kamarowsky

    Former Orange Studio Exec Andrei Kamarowsky Becomes Gulf Film COO (EXCLUSIVE)

    Andrei Kamarowsky, who recently stepped down from Orange Studio where he spearheaded international, has joined Dubai-based distribution group Gulf Film as Chief Operating Officer. Founded three decades ago, Gulf Film is involved in both distribution and exhibition in the Middle East, and has close relationships with Studiocanal, Pathé, having output deals with STX Entertainment, MGM, [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr. American Idol

    Harry Connick Jr. to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

    Grammy and Emmy Award winner Harry Connick Jr will be honored with at star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next week. The ceremony will take place on the morning of Oct. 24. “When choosing a star location, we try to incorporate ties to the honoree and this one turned out to be a coincidence [...]

  • Zombieland: Double Tap

    Film Review: 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    The zombies have evolved in “Zombieland: Double Tap”; the comedy not so much. But that’s OK, because Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 breakout hit — which gobbled up $75.6 million in a genre fast approaching its pop-culture saturation point — was already a few steps ahead of the curve: Its central quartet actually knew they were living [...]

  • Chinese director Jia Zhangke at the

    Iconic Chinese Auteur Jia Zhangke Touts Trio of Projects at Pingyao

    No one attending the Pingyao International Film Festival can escape learning about Jia Zhangke’s upcoming projects, with the same three trailers for them playing before each and every screening. The art house icon-turned-businessman’s presence looms large over the event he founded in his home province.  First off, there is a new collaboration between Jia and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content