×
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.

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

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    'Vice' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    Reviews are in for Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic, and it’s not all awards-season buzz. Despite garnering six nominations for this year’s Golden Globes, McKay’s kitschy approach to the politically charged film has polarized reviewers, prompting a mix of scathing critiques and celebratory praise for the director’s distinct film style. What critics can agree on, however, [...]

  • Lena Waithe Brian Tyree Henry

    Lena Waithe, Brian Tyree Henry to Present $125k in Annual Film Independent Grants

    Writer-creator Lena Waithe and actor Brian Tyree Henry will present a quarter of a million dollars in filmmaker grants come January as hosts of the annual Independent Spirit Awards nominee brunch. Waithe, this year’s Spirit Awards honorary chair, and Henry will dole out the prizes in four categories, including a $50,000 unrestricted grant for a [...]

  • Piero Tosi Luchino Visconti

    How Costume Designer Piero Tosi Dressed Up Cinema

    One of international cinema’s undisputed greats in costume design, Piero Tosi’s work first faced the awards season spotlight 64 years ago with only his third film, Luchino Visconti’s masterwork “Senso,” which competed for the Golden Lion in Venice in 1954. Nominated for five Oscars for costume design and recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2013, [...]

  • RYAN GOSLING as Neil Armstrong in

    Big Breakthroughs Seen in Below-the-Line Categories

    Is 2018 an anomaly, or is it a harbinger of things to come? The awards derbies of recent years have seen a predominance of indie films at the expense of big studio features — resulting in a slate of Oscar contenders devoid not only of genuine blockbusters but also of more modest mid-budget crowd-pleasers. This [...]

  • Fox Germany Veteran Vincent De La

    Fox Germany Veteran Vincent De La Tour Heading to Paramount Pictures

    20th Century Fox veteran Vincent de la Tour is joining Paramount Pictures in a role covering Austria, Germany and Switzerland. He will be executive vice president for theatrical and home media for those territories, overseeing the local teams and reporting to Cameron Saunders, Paramount’s EVP of international theatrical distribution, and Bob Buchi, president of worldwide [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Oscar Noise Dominated by Academy Itself, Not the Movies

    For most of its 91 years, Oscar has been surrounded by hoopla. Now it’s surrounded by noise, which isn’t the same thing. For decades, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ attitude toward the media was: “Don’t talk about the organization; instead, talk about the creative members and their movies.” But in the internet [...]

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Diverse Lineup of Actors Jostle for Awards Attention

    It’s been less than four years since #OscarsSoWhite became a hot topic at the Academy Awards after 2015 films like “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” failed to land major nominations for people of color. (It actually began the year before but picked up steam when, for the second year in a row, no people of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content