A standard romantic comedy template is enriched with a keen social conscience, striking performances and an affectionate sense of place in Miia Tervo’s raucously enjoyable film. Encompassing such issues as the refugee crisis and alcoholism, the cultural specificities and heart-on-sleeve sincerity easily overcome some of the genre’s standard contrivances.
Aurora (the brilliant and splendidly-named Mimosa Williamo) is a troubled small-town girl from Lapland apparently cursed by a case of nominative determinism. She is, in the words of one of her friends, a ‘flamethrower’. Frequently unpredictable, drunk and belligerent, she’s a bit of a liability. To paraphrase Neil Young, she shows every indication she’ll burn our rather than fade away. The down-on-her-luck free spirit meets Darian (Amir Escandari), a desperate Iranian refugee and his daughter. In exchange for money she promises to help him find the wife that will grant him residency in Finland.
Aurora wears its weightier dressing lightly as it weaves a playful spell between its central couple, both star-crossed citizens of nowhere. Darian couldn’t be further from his comfort zone, with snowy Lapland an inhospitable climate for a Middle-Eastern refugee in more ways than one. Aurora has been made homeless after her hapless father has been carted off to rehab for the umpteenth time. It’s little surprise the bottle has begun to drink from her instead of the other way round. Their individual situations make them easy to fall for, and the chemistry between the pair is easy and instantaneous. If anything, it makes the film’s expected outcome a cast-iron certainty.
Beside our odd-couple couple are a colourful cast of family, friends and eccentrics. These are of a type that may have come across as stock supporting players in the familiar English-language rom-com. In Aurora, they’re used to further flesh out our protagonists yet comes across as compelling figures in their own right. Chief among these are Juha (Chike Ohanwe), the gruff husband of a kindly immigration worker who takes in Darian and his daughter, and a maverick elderly lady (Miitta Sorvali) for whom Aurora is employed as a home help. They demonstrate Darian and Aurora’s ability to make and develop relationships outwith their central romance. Too few comedies of this type allow for this level of character evolution when not dictated by plot necessity. These connections also mean that when Aurora and Darian aren’t onscreen together the film still engages, and often enraptures.
Aurora follows a careworn path, but it’s one that is paved with gems. The destination may never be in doubt but it’s certainly a scenic and circuitous route. There are few elements that don’t bolster and enhance the story, and the heavier themes are dealt with lightly but without flippancy. It’s clear where Aurora‘s political heart lies, but it’s no polemic.
The lasting memory of Aurora will be Mimosa Williamo as the titular trainwreck. A blast of colour and attitude against the unforgiving bite of her arctic stomping ground, the character is a force of nature to rival her celestial namesake, and Williamo is surely destined for great things.
UK Premiere screenings at Vue Omni Fri 21 and Sun 23 Jun 2019