Director: Klaus Härö
Screenplay: Klaus Härö & Jaana Makkonen
Producers: Lasse Saarinen & Risto Salomaa
Starring: Kaarina Hazard, Heikki Nousiainen, Jukka Keinonen
Duration: 72 min
Postia Pappi Jaakobille (translated as ‘Letters to Father Jacob’) is a low key Finnish film, originally made for TV but sensibly given a native cinematic release as well as a few festival screenings. My fiancé got a copy on DVD for Christmas (she’s Finnish) and due to the amount of local buzz it was getting I thought I’d give it some international coverage before anyone else does (although Variety have a review up – the bastards).
It’s story is quite simple, Leila (Kaarina Hazard), a woman recently pardoned from a life-sentence for murder is sent to work as an assistant for semi-retired pastor Jacob (Finnish TV stalwart Heikki Nousiainen). Jacob spends his days answering letters from people seeking help with their lives, but has lost his sight and needs an assistant to read out and reply to these letters. Leila has no interest in this and the outpouring of compassion the pastor shows to these strangers does little to crack her steely exterior. After a while though the letters stop coming and Jacob struggles to keep a grasp on his positive outlook and sanity, bringing both characters close to breaking point.
Postia Pappi Jaakobille is an impressively well made film. The first thing that stood out for me is the cinematography. Shot on Red, this is further proof that digital cameras can stand up tall alongside 35mm to deliver beautiful, rich imagery that doesn’t look too clean or flat. In the early days of digital cinematography I could spot them a mile away, but here I only guessed it was digitally shot because of it’s TV background and I had to check on IMDB to be sure.
Performance-wise it’s top notch, with leads Hazard and Nousiainen effortlessly carrying what is essentially a two-hander. They both seem ideally suited to their roles, fitting the bill physically as well as emotionally. Klaus Härö’s direction is taut too, wasting very little screen time to deliver a short, sharp piece (only 72 minutes) with focus and craftsmanship.
Unfortunately, there is one major flaw with the film which puts me off giving this a higher score and that’s the fact that the film is incredibly predictable. I think this stands out in particular because the film is so short and simple, leaving you with an irritating feeling of ‘is that it?’ when it reaches it’s conclusion. I’ve got nothing against films that are simple and subtle, but I expected more from it than the straightforward, neat and uninspired ending that we got. I felt as though the strong performances and fine filmmaking talent was wasted on a script that delivered every scene you expected to see from the situation laid out at the start.
There is still a lot of quality here though and I imagine the well-worn road it travels will appeal to many, but I craved to see something different along the way. Maybe I’m being overly harsh, but I can’t shake the feeling of disappointment I had as the credits rolled.