STAR BOYS | KAIKEN SE KESTÄÄ)
Dir : Visa Koiso-Kanttila | Cast: Vili Saarela, Olavi Angervo, Antti Luusuaniemi, Pihla Viitala, Tomi Enbuska, Malla Malmivaara, Risto Tuorila | Finland 2017 | Drama | 81 min.
Visa Koiso-Kanttlila is best known for his long career as a documentary filmmaker and his debut feature STAR BOYS is a bittersweet reworking of his teenage years where two worlds collide but love survives in his small Finnish seaside home of Oulu.
Set in the late 1970s, Vesa (Saarela) and his best friend Kaarlo (Angervo) appear to be ordinary teenage boys, growing up in a conservative town that provides the stable backdrop for their angst-ridden puberty. But when the Sixties sexual revolution arrives late to their neck of the woods, this stable existence – and that of their parents, threatens to implode. First of all, Vesa’s architect father Tapio (Luusuaniemi) and his wife Marje (Viitala) host a divisive Swingers party where the boy becomes eyewitness to some rather sordid goings on. But the gulf between Tapio and Marje is to widen further after the architect hatches a get rich quick plan to demolish Marje’s familly home and build a block of flats, much to the chagrin of Marje’s parents. Meanwhile Kaarlo is indirectly involved in the crisis, because his sculpture fanatic father Antero (Enbuska) is not willing to sign his name to a project that would most likely secure their financial future. Antero is punished for his nobleness, because his wife Ulla (Malmivara) leaves him and moves Kaarlo to Helsinki. The well-paced and drama eventually comes to a head on the local beach. Ulla has come down from Helsinki with Kaarlo, and the grown-ups stage another sex-party – which the boys fight – literally – with fire.
This is a darkly drawn coming of age story with a difference because the narrative is driven forward by the parents’ irresponsible actions rather than those of the teenagers, which would normally be the case. Their social milieu could not be more sedate and conventional – but this lot behave like students at the height of the 1968 student liberation. Vesa and Kaarlo, like most young adults, want their parents to provide an emotional bedrock to withstand their own teenage insecurities. But the only stable element here is Vesa’s grandfather Olavi (Tuorila) who introduces his grandson to astronomy. So when he is turfed-out by his financially greedy son-in-law, Vesa is left alone, bewildered and hell-bound on revenge.
Made on a shoestring budget but none the worse for it, Koiso-Kantilla directs the ensemble with sure-footed confidence, and the boys are well cast and – not overly cute – and deserving of a special mention. Jarkko T. Laine’s camerawork provides an evocative sense of place for the glorious settings: calming images for the Hailuoto summer seascapes and the bleached out winter scenes. STAR BOYS often feels like a Finnish version of Les Enfants Terrribles but its heartfelt narrative still feels intimate and personal.
STAR BOYS | 39TH MOSCOW FILM FESTIVAL 2017