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The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (****)

Tomorrow (**)

Two films to round off our coverage of Wales One World film festival at Chapter over the weekend. These two are outliers somewhat in the programme; a sweet, funny romance without a mean bone in its body and a fairly routine eco-doc that doesn’t do nearly enough to maintain interest over a two-hour runtime.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki tells the true story of one-time Finnish boxing wunderkind Olli Mäki (played here by dead-ringer Jarkko Lahti). Set in 1962, Olli finds himself being hailed as a new national sporting icon for Finland as he readies himself for a championship match against his US opponent. Under pressure from everyone from his manager to the big businessmen who put heavy money into making the fight happen, Olli finds himself instead falling in love with the girl of his dreams, Raija (Oona Airola). Distracted and unable to train, the two get engaged on the day of the fight, which Olli goes on to lose in an anticlimactic two rounds.

Where most boxing films follow in the vein of Rocky or Raging Bull—plucky underdog comes good or talented fighter self-destructs—The Happiest Day… does neither, instead telling a story about a boxer who never seems all that interested in boxing. For Olli, boxing is just a hobby he became particularly good at, not a life-or-death mission to succeed. Director Juho Kuosmanen draws plenty of wry humour from the exasperations of Olli’s management, as well as the unimaginativeness of the press in covering the build-up to the fight (every time Olli poses for a photo, he’s asked to put his fists up in the same dull fighting stance). The performances are excellent, and the chemistry between Olli and Raija feels entirely sincere and sweet. The black-and-white cinematography is quite beautiful too, leading to one of the nicest and most relaxing films of the festival.

Unfortunately, the same can’t really be said of Tomorrow, an eco-documentary directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent (whom most of us might recognise from Inglorious Basterds). The film’s aim is not to present another doom-and-gloom picture of the world’s slide into environmental collapse, but to show the ways in which people all around the world are already adapting, be it via co-op farms, alternative economic modes, and increasing productivity whilst decreasing waste. Its globe-trotting structure means that whilst Tomorrow covers a vast array of topics in a very short amount of time, it rarely scratches below the surface of any of its chosen subjects. Split into five separate chapters ranging from agriculture to democracy, the film’s remit is just too wide to present anything beyond an entry-level analysis of the problems: it might have actually functioned better as a TV series. With that said, it’s hard to critique the film’s aim, nor its admirable attempt to hone down all that material into something manageable, but Tomorrow remains a somewhat disjointed, all-over-the-place experience.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is on at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on March 30th at 8:15pm, Swansea Taliesin on April 5th at 6pm, and Mold Theatr Clwyd on April 11th at 8pm.

Tomorrow is on at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on March 29th at 8:15pm and Swansea Taliesin on April 5th, 8pm.


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