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film review

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki: A sharp but unassuming boxing film Add to ...

  • Directed by Juho Kuosmanen
  • Written by Juho Kuosmanen, Mikko Myllylahti
  • Starring Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, Eero Milonoff
  • Classification PG

It’s a boxing film – and it isn’t. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is Juho Kuosmanen’s curious light drama built around a 1962 world championship prize fight held in Helsinki.

An impressive Jarkko Lahtii plays Olli Maki, as unassuming a fighter as you’ll ever meet (and you’ll be glad you did). He spends much of the film attempting to slim down from lightweight to featherweight, in the same way the Finnish filmmaker Kuosmanen winningly trims things down from haymaker-throwing and punch-in-the-nose metaphors to something more gentlemanly.

Shot sharply in black and white, with lovely attention paid to period aesthetics, the vérité-fashioned film captures a quiet, young man whose gentle enjoyments include giving his new love a romantic bicycle ride. He’s a wry spirit who confounds his flashier, intense manager. The fight is a big deal in Finland, but for Olli Maki, the happiest days in his life assuredly will happen when the match is over. As for the winner and new champion, it has to be Kuosmanen, who never met a boxing-film cliché he couldn’t discreetly avoid.

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