×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Göteborg Film Review: ‘Aurora’

An enjoyable dramedy from Finnish Lapland that uses location and characters to add something fresh to familiar romantic comedy beats.

Director:
Miia Tervo
With:
Mimosa Williamo, Amir Escandari, Oona Airola, Ela Yildrim, Miita Sorvali, Ria Kataja, Chike Ohanwe, Hannu-Pekka Björkman. (Finnish, Farsi, English dialogue)  

1 hour 46 minutes

A Finnish party girl falls in love with an Iranian refugee in “Aurora,” an enjoyable dramedy from helmer-writer Miia Tervo. Unspooling during snowy winter in rugged Finnish Lapland, the exuberant narrative cleverly exploits the location and unconventional characters to add something fresh to familiar romantic comedy beats. Despite its raucous surface and frequently risqué Finnish culture jokes, the film is suffused with tenderness and melancholy. Moreover, it poignantly addresses some big themes — including the plight of asylum seekers and female alcoholism — while capturing the feelings of restlessness derived from being stuck in a remote place with a lack of opportunity. After opening the recent Göteborg Film Festival, it will make its U.S. premiere at SXSW in March.

Like her namesake, the northern lights, the eponymous twentysomething is a force of nature. Aurora (Mimosa Williamo, in a go-for-broke performance) is a wild, commitment-phobic, good-time girl with a drinking problem that she denies. She’s fed up with her unsatisfying life as a low-paid nail technician in Rovaniemi, better known as the arctic hometown of Santa Claus; she wants to go to Norway, where she hears that giving colonics will bring in big bucks. But her bankrupt, alcoholic father (Hannu-Pekka Björkman) is entering rehab for the umpteenth time and the bank has repossessed their apartment and worldly goods, so she must bunk in with best friend Kinky (Oona Airola) while figuring out a way to fund her move.

Also in dire need of a place to stay is the Iranian refugee Darien (Amir Escandari, the Iranian-born, Finland-based writer-director of “Pixadores,” here exercising a compelling charm in his acting debut) and his sweet young daughter Azar (Ela Yildrim). While they luck into temporary accommodation with a compassionate doctor (Ria Kataja) and her grumpy husband (Chike Ohanwe, especially good), Darien learns that the fastest road to permanent residency lies through marriage.

When Aurora and Darien, both at their most desperate, accidentally meet at a local hot dog stand, the fateful encounter leads to an agreement of sorts: In return for a significant sum of euros, Aurora will help him find a wife — and educate him about Finnish women to boot. Of course, her unlikely suggestions represent temporary obstacles to what viewers recognize as the natural romantic-comedy solution, but as pictured by Tervo, they are a lot of fun to watch, particularly Darien’s near-miss wedding with a dignified Karelian elder.

As Darien and Aurora both stubbornly resist the chemistry between them, Darien takes up with a do-gooder artisan whose unusual millinery creations would not be out of place in Dr. Seuss’ “500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” and who just might provide the solution to his problems. But genre rules win out and eventually the right couple navigates their way through the pitfalls of loss and alcoholism into true love.

Tervo’s brassy, feminist screenplay benefits from her knowledge of life in her native Lapland, where the women are strong and outspoken, and as apt to knock back a few too many drinks as their male counterparts. The salty, non-PC dialogue includes some good jokes (“What’s the first thing the Finnish soldier does after returning from the Winter War? Make love to his wife. What’s the second thing? Make love to his wife again. What’s the third thing? Take off his skies.”) and some unusual terms of endearment. She also makes smart use of well-chosen music to communicate unspoken depths of feeling as well as to delineate cultural specificity.

Charismatic star Williamo proves herself more than game as she totters through ice and snow clad in mini-skirts and high heels. International casting agents should also take note of her good looks and fluent English. The flavorsome lensing by Arsen Sarkisiants combines arctic grit with icy lyricism, while the colorful production design adds further notes of fun.

Göteborg Film Review: 'Aurora'

Reviewed at Göteborg Film Festival (competing), Jan. 31, 2019. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 106 MIN.

Production: (Finland) A Dionysos Film production. (Int'l sales: LevelK, Copenhagen.) Producer: Max Malka. Executive producer: Riina Hyytiä.

Crew: Director, writer: Miia Tervo. Camera (color, widescreen): Arsen Sarkisiants. Editor: Antti Reikko. Music: Laura Naukkarinen, Jaakko Laitinen, Väärä Raha.

With: Mimosa Williamo, Amir Escandari, Oona Airola, Ela Yildrim, Miita Sorvali, Ria Kataja, Chike Ohanwe, Hannu-Pekka Björkman. (Finnish, Farsi, English dialogue)  

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content