Le Havre, an odd film that has been gathering a lot of attention (too much, in my opinion), made its way through the Cannes circuit winning the Fipresci Prize yet losing in all 7 standard feature-film competition categories. Considered Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's most mainstream film, Le Havre fails to be a film greater than the location it takes its name from.
Following an old shoe-shiner, Marcel Marx (André Wilms), lives an almost vagabond lifestyle traveling through Normandy trying to make enough money to sustain he and his wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen). When he returns home one night to find his wife ill in the corner of their kitchen he rushes her to the hospital but knows that he must continue shoe-shining.
Meanwhile, a cargo box is opened by French police in a port in Normandy revealing a dozen illegal African immigrants on route to London and a young boy runs out of the cargo. Now pinned as an African terrorist by the French government (the funniest moment of the film), the boy remains in hiding until he meets the depressed yet kind Marcel Marx. Marcel decides to help the boy get to London in a series of Good Samaritan like deeds.
Though the film has a nice message (kindness, love etc..), the film is an absolute waste with a resolution far too predictable.
Traditionally, American films are not location specific (unless it's a Woody Allen film), but European filmmakers are notorious for making films dedicated to cities. Many of these films are some of the greatest ever made, but this is not one of them. The film is almost too focused upon music (whether playing on a radio, record player, or a live performance by a real band popular in Le Havre). Rather than being artistic or profound, as in American director Wes Anderson's films, in Le Havre the music drags and causes uncomfortable moments of stillness that seem to ignore the true responses to music in the real world.
Had the film continued down the path that the first five minutes lead the audience to believe the film would be about, the film would be close to perfect. Sadly, Kaurismäki chose sentimentality over original writing... It's his loss.