"Le Havre" is one of those rare films we can't help falling in love with because of its simplicity. Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki pays homage to classic French cinema in this compassionate comedy about people being kind to one another.
Set in the French harbor city of its title, we meet Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), an aging shoe-shiner. Despite being quite poor, his life is rich. A loving wife (Kati Outinen), devoted friends and an inherent sense of optimism make Marcel an enviable man.
Suddenly, two fateful events simultaneously threaten his stable existence. His precious wife becomes gravely ill, and while she's in the hospital he stumbles upon a young African fugitive refugee, Little Bob. In an act that seems perfectly natural, Marcel takes the boy (Rondin Miguel) in, hides him from the authorities and helps arrange his escape to London.
His neighbors become abettors, constantly thwarting the efforts of a persistent inspector (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). In order to raise money for the illegal transport of the boy, everyone pitches in what little they have. Best of all, they decide to throw a "trendy" rock concert starring Little Bob. Rockin' Little Bob knocks your socks off as a tiny Elvis wannabe.
The characters who inhabit "Le Havre" seem to be a throwback from a simpler time. They share landlines (no cells in sight), cars and even food. It's an unpretentious lifestyle and one that has an immense draw. “Fairy tale” comes to mind.
Kaurismaki ("The Man Without A Past") chooses not to go political on his audience. Instead, he focuses upon stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. I assume he thinks it's an innate quality that we all possess or, perhaps, he just hopes so. Either way, "Le Havre" feels really good to watch, especially this time of year.
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