Road North Mika Kaurismäki
Published Sep 23, 2012In interpreting the lexicon of dominant cinema tropes and metaphors literally, the way to cure emotional inertia, displacement or generalized angst is to take a road trip into the past, tackling all the demons and signifiers that made us so neurotic in the first place.
In Finnish dramedy Road North, this formula applies to accomplished pianist Timo Porola (Samuli Edelmann), who is a notorious curmudgeon. Recently divorced and on track to live life as a talented recluse, he's understandably thrown by the arrival of his obese, uneducated, lower class father, Leo (Vesa-Matti Loiri), who left when Timo was a toddler.
Because Leo is fat, comic shenanigans ensue, with him giving his son a bottle of half-consumed liquor as a gift and walking around in his apartment half-naked while a real estate agent shows it to a potential buyer. More outrageous is how awkwardly this unkempt, tacky dynamic meshes with Timo's pristine environment and rigid disposition, making the dramatic facial expressions and reaction to each other's extreme "odd couple" behaviour easily interpreted by the audience.
Once the two agree to take a road trip to discover some ill-defined inheritance, Timo discovers more family — a half sister with a metal-loving, closeted homosexual husband — and a little bit of zaniness in himself that he never knew he possessed. Meanwhile, Leo confronts his past and learns to sacrifice a bit of himself for others.
These sorts of films essentially write themselves, going the route of employing idiosyncrasy for broad laughs while stepping back at appropriately timed intervals to remind the audience of the humanity at the core. We all learn a lesson about the importance of family and the on-screen characters are able to sum up their identity with ready simplicity.
While inoffensive and occasionally amusing, there's nothing here that hasn't been done before ad nauseum. (Marianna)