When young African immigrant (Miguel) meets elderly shoeshine man, Marcel (Wilms), in the port town of Le Havre, the pair strikes up an unlikely friendship.
From Cinema Paradiso to Central Station, the pairing of a crusty old-timer with a doe-eyed child has long been a recipe for fondant-centred arthouse success. Le Havre is no different, even if it comes from the singular imagination of Finnish oddball Aki Kaurismäki. Elderly beatnik shoeshiner Marcel’s (André Wilms) sleepy existence in the harbour town of Le Havre is given renewed purpose when he becomes the reluctant protector of an illegal child immigrant (Blondin Miguel) from Africa. Gently redemptive and worthily humane, this feels like the first Kaurismäki film you could take your gran to see — happily, enough of the director’s reliably deadpan wit and cockeyed worldview survive the sweetening to make it a pleasure for the cinephile set, too.
It may not be up there with his very best, but Aki Kaurismäki offers a reminder that he's a still one of the freshest voices in cinema.
Reviewed by Guy Lodge