April 2, 2019 Aurora (Movie Review)
Finnish Filmmaker Miia Tervo (The Seal 2005, Little Snow Animal 2009) has created Aurora, a Dramatic Romcom that transcends borders and reason. Nominated for best Nordic film at 2019’s Göteborg Film Festival, Aurora made its North American premiere on March 10th at the SXSW Film Festival.
Aurora (Mimosa Williamo: Headfirst 2014, Lake Bodom 2016) is a head strong, hard partying, twenty-something year old nail technician who does not have a clear path in life. Her mother is deceased and her father, Reijo (Hannu-Pekka Björkman: For the Living and the Dead 2005, The Eternal Road 2017) is of no use as he is a lifelong alcoholic who has done countless stints in rehab. Bankrupt and being evicted from their home, Aurora now finds herself alone and homeless. Enjoying the party scene and sex, but with an extreme aversion to commitment, she, like her father, finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. Her best friend, Kinky (Oona Airola: The happiest day in the life of Olli Maki 2016, Oma maa 2018), allows her a couch to stay on while she tries to figure out how to come up with the money to make her way out of Finland and to Norway to start a new life.
Then there is Darian (Amir Escandari: The Book of Fate 2003, Pixadores 2014) and his young daughter, Azar (Elá Yildirim: A Pact 2013, Bullets 2018) who are also homeless looking for their place in life. Darian is an Iranian refugee trying to figure out a way to get asylum, so he is not deported back to face his certain death. The pair are taken in by a compassionate doctor, Tiina (Ria Kataja: Black Ice 2007, Ihmisen osa 2018) and her not so willing husband, Juha (Chike Ohanwe: If You Love 2010, Pienia suuria valheita 2018). Darian is convinced the only way to save his daughter and secure her future is to either get married to a Finnish woman or to kill himself and make his daughter an orphan.
One chance meeting at a hot dog stand late at night aligns these two polar opposite people’s meeting. Darian offers money to Aurora in exchange for her help to find him a wife and teach him the ways of Finnish women. Aurora, seeing a financial opportunity agrees. The unlikely friendship begins out of necessity. Both are running from something. Has fate finally been kind and brought these two together? Or will they both continue to crash and burn out like their lives have caused them to expect?
Character development is central to Aurora. From the beginning, the viewer will find Aurora to be a beautiful girl, but deeply damaged to the point that redemption does not even seem possible. Denial and avoidance is the theme of her life. The hot dog proprietor sums her up perfectly, “ You know, that head of yours moves with you.” For the majority of the film, she is running from the harsh realities of her life, drinking and partying hard, but never really living.
Williamo does an excellent job of sucking the viewer into Aurora’s world with bated breath; disappointed in her when she does stupid things and championing her as she grows. Aurora’s journey of self-discovery is a rocky path, but a path that must be followed in order to reach a new chapter. Escandari’s Darian is the catalyst that helps move her along this path. His focus never really changes, but he too, must undergo a change in order to achieve his goals in life.
Both Aurora and Darian at times seem completely out of place in their surroundings. It is a perfect mirror to who they are as people. Darian is staying with Reijo and Juha. Darian has very little possessions, but a cluttered complex past. Reijo and Juha live comfortably in a large house with room to spare. Aurora is also homeless with little possessions. She finds a place to stay with the wealthy Liisa (Miitta Sorvali: Puhtaat valkeat lakanat 1993, Mitta-tati 2009) whose home includes a pool and stocked bar. Both Aurora and Darian stick out like sore thumbs in their current environment. It is just another subtle nod to their placement in this world; which is still to be determined. It is only when the two are onscreen together that they appear to belong to the environment surrounding them.
Overall, Aurora is a film that embodies the rawness and unpredictability that is life. Just when nothing makes sense everything comes into place and for precious moments it is whole. It is sometimes true that the people we need most in life are the least likely to be expected and this film flawlessly represents this idea. It is for these reasons that Cryptic Rock gives Aurora a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.