A Fellow British Expat Directs a Finnish Musical Movie…
After a car accident, a young selfish girl gets amnesia and becomes a nicer person. She falls in love, but it’s complicated.
Jos Rakastat – official trailer, Border 1918 and photos © Juonifilmi
Now for something completely different with a random review of a Finnish film, Jos Rakastat (2010). This is now written from a snowless (!) Finland. This movie under the spotlight is a musical romantic drama so get those tissues ready if like me you sob at the drop of a hat.
This Finnish film was directed by a fellow British ex-pat, Neil Hardwick. The story behind this review choice starts a few years ago. Once upon a time, I heard a lovely Finnish ballad called Jos sä tahdot niin (“If you want it that way”) and my workmate told me it was from the Finnish language musical movie, Jos Rakastat (2010). I loved the tune even though I didn’t have a clue of what this ballad was about.
Your intrepid writer was intrigued and investigated more via that video sharing place. There I found the movie trailer and that song mentioned earlier, as sung in a movie clip. I liked these so much I bought the DVD planning to watch it, noting first of course that it had English subtitles (as I wasn’t as good at my Finnish language skills back then).
Forward a few years later, and my Finnish had improved tons. But this DVD was gathering dust – but still on the to watch and review pile – as I was lost in a (good way) in a world of more random reviews, blogathons and interviews (such is the movie bloggers life).
Years later and Darlin Husband – who knows me better than most – suggested to me that I will learn more Finnish language through Finnish movies and TV. This as I had a major exam coming up. This including a part where you have to listen to Finnish and answer questions about it in Finnish.
I then watched this film three times in a row, with no subtitles, with Finnish subtitles and finally (to check I got it right) with English subtitles. Then I did a presentation about the film at my Finnish language course. Now, I’m going to tell you and the masses (?) who read this blog more about the movie.
The film telling of a wee lonely girl, Ada (Jessica Penttilä). Her father is super rich and she lives in a big house and she has an au pair, but she has only a few friends. Ada’s dad (Taneli Mäkelä) is a busy politician and her mum died fairly recently. Her mother was killed in an accident with a drunk driver.
Ada still misses her mum lots and sees her mum (Minttu Mustakallio) in her imagination. Ada’s close to her dad’s funky and cool single sister, Hanna (Meri Nenonen) – who promises to take her for a holiday once she graduates – and finds her other aunt – her mother’s sister Marja-Leena (Satu Silvo) – rude and obnoxious. Cue a few musical numbers.
The film then leaps forward about 10 years and look at Ada (Elli Vallinoja) now. She’s pretty, spoiled and quite horrible. She’s learning to drive with a fake driving licence under the name Anna. She’s stylish and fashionable and hoping daddy will buy her a car after she graduates.
You really wouldn’t believe this was the same sweet kid you met earlier. She’s best friends with a couple of airhead blondes. Ada shouts at her Auntie Hanna for getting pregnant as the promised trip abroad can’t happen. But when Daddy buys her a holiday in the Caribbean with him, instead of the car she wanted, she goes ballistic. She rants about this present to her father at her graduation party and he slaps her.
As her dad leaves alone for this holiday, her Auntie Hanna goes on a wee trip with her new man instead. Alone, Ada tarts herself up and leaves to go clubbing with her airhead pals. In the nightclub, she gets drunk, steals one of her airhead pals boyfriends and takes illicit drugs.
Meanwhile in the club Toni (Chike Ohanwe) is out with his buddies. He quite fancies Ada from afar. however, his best girl buddy Afya (Sarah Kivi) has a bit of a crush on him. His dad texts him to say he’s on his way to pick him up from the nightclub.
Meanwhile, Ada decides to leave the nightclub and steals a nearby sports car and speeds off. Her car collides with Toni’s dad’s car on a country road. He’s seriously injured and in a coma. Ada appears unharmed and flees from the scene, appearing to have lost just her favourite necklace.
Reading her fake driving licence Ada believes she’s Anna and heads to Hanna’s place believing her aunt’s empty flat is hers. Not knowing anything Anna /Ada thinks she has amnesia, but on reading more on the accident she gradually believes she’s responsible for the accident.
She visits the hospital and can’t visit him as she’s not a relative. She befriends a cool single mum nurse Mervi (Jenni Kokander) who allow her to visit Toni’s dad. He is still in a coma. Anna / Ada immediately feels guilty.
As her memory is returning gradually, Anna takes a cleaning job at the hospital. One lunchtime at the beach, she meets Toni. They flirt, he takes her out on a date and they then start dating. Then one day Ada (Anna) bumps into Toni and his mum in the hospital, and she learns who his dad is…
This story was based on a children’s fairy tale by Zachris Topelius. The story named Adalminan helmi (Adalmina’s Pearl) was wonderfully updated to a modern-day setting and then adapted for film.
The musical numbers – like those from Mamma Mia (2008) – are well known Finnish pop songs. These have the cast singing and dancing to the songs but with wee bonus cameos from the singers in many of their scenes. The songs’ lyrics were always appropriate to the time and place of the movie, unlike that ABBA musical.
The film screenplay was written by Finnish screenwriter Katja Kallio. Neil Hardwick directed it, and this man is a familiar British name over here. Harwick is an ex-pat who is a strong advocate for British and Finnish culture and a one time TV presenter.
Elli Vallinoja who plays the lead Anna / Ada is a famous opera singer over here. Chike Ohanwe is the son of a Finn and a Nigerian ex-pat. The Finnish singing star Sarah Kivi also stars in a supporting role as Afya, the rival for Toni’s affections as well as a pivotal role in this romantic tale.
I adored the unique premise of the movie, with this becoming a beautifully poignant and ultimately tear-jerking movie. Young Penttilä sweetly played the young Ada. I loved her sweet singing and acting performance. As a young kid in an adult cast, she played a credible character and her innocence a complete contrast to the older more selfish Ada character before the accident.
As the older Ada, Vallinoja was exceptional with her portrayal of three strikingly different sides to her character. She excelled as Ada the bad, spoiled daughter and this a contrast to this character after the accident as honest and nicer Anna.
Vallinoja’s on-screen rapport chemistry was also strongly evident with Ohanwe and Kokander. Kokender was a comic but supportive character, as the nurse, Anna befriended in the hospital.
It was interesting watching how Vallinoja’s character coped after the accident in her new world. It was almost like a more innocent character discovering love, friendship and herself. Having seen others.. er soap characters.. dealing with amnesia, this story seemed more heartfelt and less cliche-filled, than it did in those settings. It was heartbreaking to watch Anna’s conflict in learning her patient’s identity. This girl now with more honest character and her love for Toni seemed appropriately troubled.
Vallinoja was exceptional in all her scenes reflecting these different characteristics. In her double performance of both the selfish spoiled Ada and the nicer Anna, Vallinoja gave two different and unique performances. This reflected in both her singing and acting performances, and she found a credible balance.
The cast of this movie are well-known actors and singers over here. I particularly liked Jenni Kokander’s performance as Mervi. She proved herself a good friend and confidante. Her performance in one scene accompanied by some other women, she appeared along with some rather sweaty and hot, shirtless (and I assume those with the tanned stripes she sings about) Finnish blokes.
This song is sung in a karaoke bar but as Mervi imagines in a cabaret. This reminded me of a similar performance with Mama Morton (Queen Latifah) in Chicago (2002), complete with an audience and dressed with feather plumes.
I won’t add any spoilers here on the remainder of this movie. But if you want a fun Finnish movie, I’d urge you wherever you live to seek it out if you can. As if you love a romantic and heartfelt story – this film really is like the English translation – a pearl of a musical movie and one to be treasured.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦 😦 😦 😦 😦😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂10
Hulk Rating: 0 /10