Mikko Makela/ Finland/ 2017/ 108 mins
@CCA as part of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival
A Moment in the Reeds is simultaneously familiar and fresh . Familiar because it treads a similar ‘new love’ journey to many other LGBTQ films (Summer Storm, Weekend, God’s Own Country) and fresh because it features a refugee Syrian actor (Boodi Kabbani) and is amongst very few queer films from Finland.
The film uses the confined setting of a rural cottage to amplify the intensity of this emotionally driven story. Literature student Leevi (Janne Puustinen) returns home from Paris to Finland to help his single father Juko renovate their once-holiday home in order to sell it on: a metaphor for the film’s overarching theme of transition. The awkward father-son relationship is clear as Juko makes passive aggressive comments about Leevi’s aptitude for manual labour and the silences between them stretch uncomfortably. The dynamic is then impacted with the arrival of Tareq, a Syrian asylum seeker and former architect who’s been sent as a handyman to help with the construction work. Divisions of various sorts become more apparent as Juko vents about Tareq’s inability to communicate in Finnish. It’s also blatant that he is harbouring prejudice based on Tareq’s nationality.
Connecting over their outcast statuses, Leevi and Tareq are left alone at the cottage and their developing bond becomes the film’s focus. The two actors deliver gentle performances and build a powerful and sensitive chemistry. Their natural dialogue and passionate physical interactions make the relationship easy to believe despite the characters only knowing each other for a few days. The bulk of the film is spent harbouring this intense connection, which subsequently makes the inevitable complications so engaging and heartbreaking. Tareq receives news from home that already threatens the new romance and the return of Juko throws everything into chaos as his prejudices and buried emotions surface towards the denouement.
A Moment in the Reeds is aptly titled, capturing a singular emotive experience that most viewers will surely relate to: the intense and visceral rush of love and attraction made all the more potent by its transience. Perhaps Tareq’s experience and past could have been developed further and the curt ending, although deliberate, does feel cruelly abrupt. However, the film moves us with delicately captured romantic moments and asks us to consider our sense of home, freedom and the price of liberation from judgement. Hopefully its success will invite more queer film from Finland — an exciting prospect judging from this piece.