Absolution – Noun a freeing from blame or guilt; release from consequences, obligations, or penalties.
Written by Petri Kotwica and Johanna Hartikainen, directed by Petri Kotwica, Absolution opens with religious couple Kiia (Laura Birn) and Lauri (Eero Aho) are speeding down a country road due to Kiia going through a premature labour. Kiia has miscarried before at the very same stage of pregnancy, so Lauri wants to take no chances. On the way to the hospital, Kiia hits something. Lauri goes to check, but claims to have seen nothing. Kiia and Lauri go on their way and give birth to their first child.
As it turns out, another patient is admitted to the same hospital. His name is Timo (Teijo Eloranta) and a hit-and-run accident has left him in a comatose, vegetative like state. His wife, Hanna (Mari Rantasila) ends up meeting Kiia outside of the hospital and the two become friends.
Naturally, the friendship is the equivalent of Kiia wallpapering over a fault line. Eventually, it will rumble, crack and cause someone a great deal of devastation.
Absolution is full of great cinematography and loves to use establishing shots of the Finnish landscape, and uses a lot of aerial shots (which is fitting as Vertigo Productions co-produced the film). A lot of the film feels naturally lit and it uses the surroundings to give the film a more natural feel. Time is progressed in a very subtle way as the time and date of the accident and the following days are not mentioned, allowing us to focus on what else the film has to offer.
The main narrative theme of Absolution is in the definition of the word and the religious connotations of the word. Kiia is going through a premature labour whilst driving the car, so Lauri understandably puts his wife and child first, but Kiia is behind the wheel because she was concerned that he had a bit too much to drink.
Of course, anyone is entitled to drink what they want, but this has a snowball effect of bad life decisions. Lauri should have been completely honest about what he saw, not necessarily whilst his wife is in labour, but ideally he should have come clean sooner rather than later. The deception is a jarring narrative when you consider that Lauri and Kiia are a family of the cloth, and religion puts itself on a higher moral pedestal to those who do not follow the word of the Bible.
Absolution can be seen as a criticism of religion, it shoves the blatant hypocrisy of a man who preaches about sins for a living but cannot face his own. Lauri isn’t a particularly unlikeable man either: he’s not shown or implied to be a pathological liar (depending on your view on religion) in the past and he is very clearly a family man.
What is unnerving is how blasé he can remain throughout the whole ordeal whilst his wife’s moral compass deteriorates throughout the film. Maybe it’s the arrogance of being closer to God than the rest or maybe he has had practice lying to others; this isn’t something that is explored one way or another and in that sense is rather frustrating in its criticism of faith.
Kotwica and Hartikainen load the film with parallels highlighting the different walks of life between the two couples. Timo is a rugged man who wouldn’t look out of place chopping down trees, Lauri is a clean shaven man who dresses as a well as a priest is expected to be. Kiia is an accomplished keyboard player who leads the church choir, Hanna is a hardened rock fan who listens to heavy metal whilst her husband is hit by the car. As Kiia gives birth to a healthy baby boy, she has left Timo fighting for his life through tubes and incurable brain damage.
It’s easy to sit and judge the morals and ethics of others when there’s a screen between us and the characters but Absolution judges the morals and ethics of Kiia and Lauri in a believable way. This is a combination of both good writing and good acting. It also constantly questions what adequate justice and punishment is through comparing the police investigation and Lauri’s sermons.
Every action in life will inevitably have a reaction, and sometimes, Absolution just isn’t possible. Absolution does not come from a higher power, it comes from the person you have wronged and if they are wronged badly enough, not even God himself can make them forgive.