Review: “Le Havre” – Jennifer Merin

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This Finnish-French dramady is neither directed by a woman nor about women and women‘s issues. The film transcends gender profiling. It is, put simply, human and humane. And, it is one of the few movies I’ve seen recently that has made me truly gleeful and profoundly proud that I am of our species.

“Le Havre” is about working class, salt of the earth residents — women and men — of that French port city who unite to support an African refugee boy. Working together, they use their limited resources and risk their own wellbeing to hide him from authorities, prevent his extradition, and find means to reunite him with his mother, who is living — illegally — in London.

“Le Havre” is rich with surprising plot twists and engaging side stories, replete with enchanting riffs of riotous and quiet humor, and peopled with thoroughly endearing characters. Beautifully shot, it creates and indelible sense of place. And, it embraces a good cause. The film is, for me, perfection in cinema.

Among my favorite sequences is one of those engaging asides — a rock concert — that‘s deftly fit into the main storyline. The crew of caring neighbors decides to throw together a charity concert in an abandoned warehouse to raise money to pay for smuggling the boy into England. They ask Little Bob to perform, but the band’s grey-haired and romantic front man won’t sing because he’s depressed due to his estrangement from his main squeeze and manager, whom he describes as — and this is one of my favorite lines in the film — “the roadmap of my soul.“ When told that a boy’s freedom at stake, the ‘roadmap’ returns to her rock star, so he can sing again, and the show — a delightful groove that you can currently view on YouTube — rocks on.

Written and directed by the charismatic Aki Kaurismäki, “Le Havre” is a brilliantly conceived compilation of wonderful subplots and sequences — one sweeter than another, and none of them the least bit hokey. If you see only one film this month, make it “Le Havre.”

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