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Off the Map / Äkkilähtö

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Off the Map is an action road movie about a journey that follows a single career woman called Katri and a little girl called Anna. Katri is a typical city woman: her fashion choices consist of either white or beige, she is developing blisters from her heels but uses them regardless, and her hair is perfectly aligned. She is preparing to move to Paris with her boyfriend, but shortly before leaving she discovers that he is about to have a baby with another woman. While destroying his apartment in a burst of rage, she comes across a bag of money. She decides to take the money and make a run for the next departing flight. However, on the way to the airport she finds that a young girl, Anna, has been watching and has hidden in the car the entire time. She discovers that Anna comes from a broken home where she is neglected, and Katri decides to take Anna to her grandmothers house in Kainuu, about mid-way up the country. Along the way they are chased by Kari’s ex-boyfriend and the step-father of Anna, Tero. Tero is chasing after Anna because she has the coordinates to a drug drop, and Tero needs to pick up the drugs before his boss finds out. The film then becomes a comedy of this wild chase through Finland, and hits a more serious tone in the end as Katri discovers her bond with Anna and new-found affection for the nature around her.

This film is not just a conventional road movie; it is a story of just how important the natural world is. When we greet Katri she is obsessed with city living (as a real estate agent she makes a remark to a customer that he shouldn’t expect views in the city). At first she seems disgruntled at the idea of being out in the rural part of Finland, but we follow her journey as she develops an affection for the land around her. The films message that it’s okay to be out in the country and enjoy your surroundings is effective and makes for a beautifully told narrative.

Towards the end the story takes a much deeper message. As Anna develops a bond to Katri, she asks Katri to be her mother. Anna’s mother is a drug addict and the little girl, who is otherwise loud and hyperactive, breaks down and finds comfort in Katri, the only woman who has been nice to her. It’s heartbreaking to hear Katri say “sometimes you can’t live with your mother even if you love her” and the serious tone of the film really drives home the narrative Off the Map tries to set.

Seriousness aside, the film is genuinely funny and the chase itself is quite comedic and thoroughly entertaining. The timing and writing really make the film, and it is one of the funniest Finnish films in recent years. While at times it comes across as cliché, with the contrast to the more serious side of the film you don’t mind if the film becomes plain silly: it’s entertaining. The biggest downside for the film is that during the opening it places on screen all the sponsors of the film. No, not film institutes and film funds, but actual companies. When Audi came up the sold-out cinema laughed in a state of shock. Throughout the film we are reminded of the Audi logo and various Audi cars (the characters even mention specific makes and models) and it really takes away from the story. If a film needs to resort to those methods to gain enough funding, then there is something wrong with the film institutes.

Product placement aside, Off the Map is a genuinely funny Finnish road movie with just enough seriousness to stop the film from being too silly. While at the moment it’s set for a limited release, it’ll be nice to see this film go abroad as it’s an internationally appealing film and worthy of the extra attention.

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Cinema Scandinavia is a bi-monthly Nordic film and television magazine with a focus on writing for international audiences. Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia.