Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s new film is a charming tale about people being nice. It’s an alien concept to me, I live in London. But in Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, strangers aren’t necessarily enemies, neighbours help each other out and miracles do happen. It’s told in a style that owes a lot to the great traditions of French cinema – there’s plenty of homage here to Renoir and Bresson here if you’re minded to spot it, and more than a touch of Jacques Tati too.
Elderly shoeshiner, Marcel lives a simple life with his sick wife Arletty. They don’t seem to have had children, which might help explain why Marcel is so keen to help out the young illegal immigrant boy (Idrissa) he comes across at the port one afternoon. Despite the attempts of the local police and one detective in particular who always appears dressed in the requisite black mac and trilby (and who has a great scene with a pineapple), the neighbours all pitch in to help hide Idrissa and try to reunite him with his mother in London.
There are plenty of laughs here, and some tears too, but what comes through most strongly is the feeling of hope and the power of community. This is a film with real heart – a proper gem.