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Drifting Clouds Review

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A Helsinki couple are barely making ends meet by working as a tram driver and waitress - but things get much worse when they are both made redundant. Too proud to accept State welfare, they struggle on, searching for new jobs.

★★★★

Cult Finnish director Kaurismaki is at his deadpan best in his latest film, about a married couple's refusal to be trodden down by unemployment in recession-gripped Finland. Against a background of kitschy pop tunes and even tackier decor - everywhere resembles an Eastern Bloc airport lounge - waitress Ilona (Outinen) and tram driver Lauri (Vaananen) are both laid off and then humiliated by attempts to find other work.

No one says a great deal and both leads conduct proceedings with fixed mournful expressions, but spurts of humour have a habit of intervening, such as when Lauri collapses drunk on the doormat one night and Ilona silently drags him along the floor to bed, or when Lauri stares dismally at the bookshelves they have bought on credit in the hope that they might afford some books to fill them one day.

By keeping the narrative on a single track, the film builds modestly to its feelgood conclusion, Ilona winning the lion's share of audience sympathy as she is floored by one stroke of rotten luck after another. When hopes of a respectable job fade, she winds up as a skivvy but Lauri is decked by the owner when he goes to demand Ilona's wages. Then a chance meeting with her former boss gives the pair the chance to open their own restaurant.

With such apparently passionless fare, an aspect accentuated by the blue and brown colour scheme and the understated playing, Kaurismaki will never set cinemas alight but there are small quirky pleasures to cherish from this warm, comical and optimistic tribute to the human spirit.

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