Äideistä parhain (2005)

MOTHER OF MINE (Äideistä parhain)

(director: Klaus Härö; screenwriters: from the novel by Heikki Hietamies/Jimmy Karlsson/Kirsi Vikman; cinematographer: Jarkko T. Laine; editor: Darek Hodor; music: Tuomas Kantelinen; cast: Topi Majaniemi (Eero), Maria Lundqvist (Signe Jönsson, Swedish mother), Marjaana Maijala (Kirsti Lahti, Eero’s mother when he was young), Michael Nyqvist (Hjalmar Jönsson, Swedish father), Esko Salminen (Eero, middle-aged), Aino-Maija Tikkanen (Eero’s mother as an adult), Penny Elvira Loftéen (Siv); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ilkka Matila; Film Movement; 2005-Finland/Sweden-in Swedish & Finnish with English subtitles)
“Solid family value drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s based on the novel by Heikki Hietamies and written by Jimmy Karlsson and Kirsi Vikman. Mother of Mine tells the fictional story of just one of the 70,000 Finnish war children who were evacuated to neutral Sweden while the Finns were engaged in combat with the Russians. Klaus Härö (“Elina”) directs this solid family value drama about one such 9-year-old named Eero (Topi Majaniemi), who was taken in by the middle-aged childless Jönsson farming family (Michael Nyqvist & Maria Lundqvist) of rural Skane. Eero’s soldier father was killed in combat at the front, and his mother (Marjaana Maijala) felt he would be safer in Sweden. The good-natured new foster-father Hjalmar, a former sailor, hits it off with the youngster, but the new foster-mother Signe is cold to him because she recently lost her 6-year-old daughter in a drowning accident and wanted a girl foster child. This causes many silent moments and a few acts of mild rebellion from the conflicted youngster, who reluctantly reasons that it’s better to make a go of it then resist.

This painful patch of World War II Finnish history shows how Eero increasingly feels abandoned by his real Finnish mother and finds it difficult to adjust to his embittered surrogate Swedish mom. The scars from this period are dealt with in the film’s present-day black-and-white sequences, in which the middle-aged Eero (Esko Salminen) goes to Sweden to attend his surrogate mother’s funeral and then visits his elderly Finnish mother (Aino-Maija Tikkanen). He, at last, after suppressing his lifelong feelings about this abandonment, finds out her motives for shipping him out during the war and their relationship is improved when the secrets are revealed.

It’s acted in a subdued manner, as the fine cast all give outstanding performances and make this touching story a strong emotional dramatization. It was the winner of a number of festival awards including the ones in Toronto, Seattle, Palm Springs and Cairo.