You would never dream of seeing any of Aki Kaurismaki’s characters on the front cover of GQ or Cosmopolitan with their frumpy clothes and unkempt hairstyles. They are not glamorous heroes saving the world but indifferent low lives who just want to be left alone, but the cruel, uncaring world shits on them at every turn. Yet, they endure. That endurance shines through The Other Side of Hope, Kaurismaki’s dark comedy about a Syrian refugee and a Finnish clothing salesman.
We first meet young Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) as he walks off a cargo ship covered in soot, having escaped neo-Nazis in Germany. As an accidental stowaway, he must go through the frustrating bureaucratic process of seeking asylum… again while trying to find his sister. But circumstances leave him on the run.
Now let’s look at our second protagonist; middle aged clothing salesman Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen). When we first meet him, he’s leaving his drunken wife and ditching his job to become a poker shark. After winning some big bucks, he achieves his dream of buying a restaurant. All of this within the first forty minutes. Soon their worlds collide when Wikstrom finds Khaled sleeping near his restaurant and hires him as a custodian.