LIFF27 - Concrete Night - Cinema Review

'Ilkka's characterisation in particular follows a trend established in this sort of offering where potential areas of interest within the plot are ignored or sidelined.'

Slobbering men do not equal poignancy, such is one of the main lessons to take away from Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo's film, Concrete Night, which ends on a shot intended to pull at your heart strings, comprised of exactly that.

The failing in the finale perhaps speaks to greater problems elsewhere. In his examination of young Simo (Johannes Brotherus), Honkasalo gives us very, very little of his character to go on. Half-caught snatches of conversation with his brother (Jari Virman), glimpses inside his dreams, small bits of talk with a friend. Is there a hint here that Simo is struggling to define his sexuality, or that perhaps he struggles to relate properly to people on a cognitive level? Perhaps both, but neither defined enough to say for certain. Given little to go off, Virman makes for an awkward presence, meaning it is difficult even to sympathise with him.

His brother, Ilkka, apparently caught up in some level of evil-doing, which means he is shortly off to prison, provides some interest but also develops a horrible misogynistic streak that seems to go nowhere and serve no purpose apart from to turn us off him as well of Simo. Ilkka's characterisation in particular follows a trend established in this sort of offering where potential areas of interest within the plot are ignored or sidelined.

In Concrete Night's case, there's Ilkka's murky past and his uncertain future to start things off, but even they aren't the plot's main crimes against narrative. Simo's occasional dreams highlight the sometimes gorgeous black and white cinematography (think Sin City, rather than classic cinema), but we visit them not often enough; only really significantly at the film's opening. A mid-film departure to Simo's interactions with a local man also hints at somewhere of interest we could have visited, but before we know it we're off again, to a murky forest scene, which admittedly looks gorgeous.

It isn't that Concrete Night is a beautiful but dull film; it's that it occasionally looks lovely and is almost always empty and I'm afraid those 'occasionals' weren't enough to sustain me even partially.




The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) took place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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