New York Film Festival 55 Review: ‘The Other Side of Hope’ is subtle, quirky & timely

Finland’s master of deadpan comedy, Aki Kaurismäki (‘Lights in the Dusk’, ‘Le Havre’), returns with the story of an unlikely friendship between a Syrian asylum seeker and a middle-aged Finnish restaurant owner. Winner of the Berlin Silver Bear for Best Director, it’s a beautiful, timely film from one of the world’s leading auteurs. Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives at the port of Helsinki concealed in a coal container, fleeing war-torn Syria to seek asylum in Finland. Dazed and frustrated by the monolithic administration he encounters at the detention centre, he makes a break for it and heads out onto the streets. There he meets Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a former shirt salesman who has recently left his alcoholic wife for a new life as a bachelor restaurateur. Together, they help each other to navigate the adversities they face in these unfamiliar and often baffling new worlds. Stream The Other Side of Hope on Volta now:

Sometimes with so much in the news about refugees and asylum seekers, it becomes hard to put a face to the issue. Director Aki Kaurismäki brings the issue humanity and humor in The Other Side of Hope.  This truly deadpan comedy focuses on Khaled, who fled Syria because of the war and is now desperate to find his sister. Add to that Wikström, a man who just left his alcoholic wife and bought a restaurant, with no experience. Wikström does not set out to help Khaled, it sort of just happens.

Aside from the story, the film is beautifully shot, and although set in our time, has the look of a 70s film. Many shots are zoomed out to show all the action and the absurd movements of the characters. It’s a delight to just visually follow what’s happening.

I also enjoyed the soundtrack immensely. The song from the trailer (at 0:37) is so fantastic and you’ll find yourself wanted to listen to it again.

To be totally honest, it doesn’t move very fast, but this is one of those films that you can turn on at any point, watch a scene and be totally satisfied. If you’ll watch a home, it’ll likely be a little rough to watch all at once, but really worth seeing.

How to watch: check out their website

Berlin International Film Festival 2017 – Winner: Best Director
Telluride Film Festival 2017
Toronto International Film Festival 2017
New York Film Festival 2017

Below are some clips for you to enjoy.


Ready to buy some New York Film Festival Tickets? These are the most limited

Wonder why these are the most limited? I did too, so here’s what I found out.

Check here for the latest on NYFF tickets

Most of these go on sale at noon today, so make sure you choose wisely!

Mrs. Hyde – Oct 1, 12:30pm, Walter Reade Theater – Limited Tickets
The Other Side of Hope – Oct 10, 8:30pm, Howard Gilman Theater
Spoor – Oct 1, 12pm, Howard Gilman Theater
Thelma – Oct 7, 12pm, Howard Gilman Theater

  • Mrs. Hyde
  • Serge Bozon
  • 2017
  • France
  • 95 minutes

Serge Bozon’s eccentric comedic thriller is loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with many a twist. Mrs. Géquil (Isabelle Huppert), a timid and rather peculiar physics professor, teaches in a suburban technical high school. Apart from her quiet married life with her gentle stay-at-home husband, she is mocked and despised on a daily basis by pretty much everyone around her—headmaster, colleagues, students. During a dark, stormy night, she is struck by lightning and wakes up a decidedly different person, a newly powerful Mrs. Hyde with mysterious energy and uncontrollable powers. Highlighted by Bozon’s brilliant mise en scène, Isabelle Huppert hypnotizes us again, securing her place as the ultimate queen of the screen.

This film was first screened at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.

Isabelle Huppert is a veteran of the New York Film Festival having starred in several over the past 10 years alone. She starred in two features last year, Elle (where she was nominated for an Academy Award) and Things To Come.


Leave it to Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre, NYFF 2011), peerless master of humanist tragicomedy, to make the first great fiction film about the 21st century migrant crisis. Having escaped bombed-out Aleppo, Syrian refugee Khlaed (Sherwan Haji) seeks asylum in Finland, only to get lost in a maze of functionaries and bureaucracies. Meanwhile, shirt salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen) leaves his wife, wins big in a poker game, and takes over a restaurant whose deadpan staff he also inherits. These parallel stories dovetail to gently comic and enormously moving effect in Kaurismäki’s politically urgent fable, an object lesson on the value of compassion and hope that remains grounded in a tangible social reality. A Janus Films release.

Won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival where it first screened.


  • Spoor
  • Agnieszka Holland, in cooperation with Kasia Adamik
  • 2017
  • Poland/Germany/Czech Republic
  • 128 minutes

Janina Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat) is a vigorous former engineer, part-time teacher, and animal activist, living in a near wilderness on the Polish-Czech border, where hunting is the favored year-round sport of the corrupt men who rule the region. When a series of hunters die mysteriously, Janina wonders if the animals are taking revenge, which doesn’t stop the police from coming after her. A brilliant, passionate director, Agnieszka Holland—who like Janina comes from a generation that learned to fight authoritarianism by any means necessary—forges a sprawling, wildly beautiful, emotionally enveloping film that earns its vision of utopia. It’s at once a phantasmagorical murder mystery, a tender, late-blooming love story, and a resistance and rescue thriller.

Won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Official Entry from Poland for Best Foreign Language Film to the Academy Awards.


  • Thelma
  • Joachim Trier
  • 2017
  • Norway/Sweden/France
  • 116 minutes

In the new film from Joachim Trier (Reprise), an adolescent country girl (Eili Harboe) has just moved to the city to begin her university studies, with the internalized religious severity of her quietly domineering mother and father (Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Henrik Rafaelsen) always in mind. When she realizes that she is developing an attraction to her new friend Anja (Okay Kaya), she begins to manifest a terrifying and uncontrollable power that her parents have long feared. To reveal more would be a crime; let’s just say that this fluid, sharply observant, and continually surprising film begins in the key of horror and ends somewhere completely different. A release of The Orchard.

Warning: This film contains flashing lights which may not be suitable for photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Screened at the Toronto Film Festival. Official entry from Norway for Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards.