Crime, trouble and misguided youths in suburban Helsinki is the premise of Flowers of Evil, a punk rock Finnish film that premiered last month in Finland. Recently the winner of the Best Director award at the 19th Shanghai International Film Festival for Flowers of Evil, Antti Jokinen is no stranger to Finnish film, having directed majors like Purge, The Resident and most recently the critically-acclaimed The Midwife. Here he returns with another realistic commentary on various aspects of life, this time in the troubled suburbs of the Finnish capital.
Flowers of Evil follows two young brothers and their struggle with life on a powder keg housing estate. One chooses punk rock and education, the other crime and confrontation. Caught in the middle and torn both ways, their father tries to hold the family together. But miscalculated actions and police overreaction light the fuse and a typically long, hot, Finnish summer explodes as frustration and despair finally boil over. The main character Sipe (Viljami Nojonen), 14, has a touching relationship with his stepbrother Juno (Juno aka Jon Korhonen-Hurmerinta) and his family.
Described as a social commentary on the problems of suburban life in Helsinki, this concept is never really fully utilised. From the sound of it we are supposed to feel for the main character, Juno, but we see him committing crimes without much pressure, so his eventual arrest is unsympathetic. The same goes with the other ‘thugs’ that are arrested or punished throughout the film. Juno comes from what is portrayed as a loving family, though not without their problems, and any act of crime he commits really is at his own peril. The only somewhat likeable character is Sipe, a teenage boy with a red Mohawk who is a Grade-A student at school. He is the character the film most accurately representing the problems of suburban life as he wants to do well despite having everything against him. Why Sipe is so obsessed with punk rock is never really explained, and it would’ve worked better if he was a regular teenager (though it is a nice Mohawk). Instead, he comes off looking just as troublesome as his older brother.
The plot itself is fairly predictable. Juno has to do one last crime and then he’ll have enough cash to start a new life. Of course, the last crime is always the one that’s the most dangerous and with the most consequences. The ending itself is rather unbelievable and deters from the films main themes. The soundtrack is excellent, but of course you’d expect that when the film is so heavily entrenched in the punk rock genre. The cinematography, for the most part, is beautifully shot, but there is one shot during a montage of Juno walking aimlessly where he breaks the fourth wall and it looks either like a music video or a photography shoot. That one shot is really distracting and kills any legitimacy he has.
Overall, Flowers of Evil had excellent potential, but the few good scenes are clouded by the confusing, slow and repetitious moments in which all sympathy is lost on the characters we are supposed to better understand throughout the film. This is not Antti Jokinen’s best work, nor the best film of the genre, but it’s worth watching if you happen to come across it.