Whimsical stoicism is the predominant mood of Finnish maverick Aki Kaurismaki, evidenced in this characteristically modest drama about an unlikely friendship.
André Wilms plays Marcel Marx – suggestive name – a former writer who's retired to the port city of Le Havre and taken up as a humble shoe-shine. When fate throws into his path a young refugee from Africa named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) Marcel feels driven to help, though he's also distracted by the serious illness of his wife Arletty (Kati Outinen). Kaurismaki's signature style of tableaux vivants, in which the actors seem to hold their poses a few seconds longer than necessary, is very much in evidence, though deployed in a plot of surprising triteness. Only in the character of an enigmatic police inspector do we sense the director's engagement with something more complex than a rousing "we are the world".