2011. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki.
The first part of a proposed "Port" trilogy, Ari Kaurismaki's Le Havre is an emotional, utterly compelling examination of love and the human condition. Told with comedic and genuine charm, Le Havre manages to encapsulate the extremes of human kindness in a small street level package. Love, compassion, loss, and sacrifice are all on display in what begins as a mundane story.
Marcel (played by Andre' Wilms) is an aging shoe shiner in the the French port city Le Havre who has abandoned his dreams and is struggling to get by. One day he encounters an African refugee named Idrissa (played by Blondin Miguel) who is on the run from the authorities. Marcel has been caring for his ill wife, not recognize the severity of her condition, and it's this turmoil that breeds an instant connection with Idrissa. Marcel then sets about helping the boy get out of the city. The various characters who populate the village help Marcel with his mission to various degrees of comedic, and heart tugging success.
This film has way of haunting you with it's simplicity. The camera work is nothing flashy, but every frame of Timo Salminen's cinematography is so breathtaking and real that you feel as if the characters are sitting in the room with you. It's life on display, both a celebration and a memorial.
One of the things I keep coming back to about this film is it's spiritual nature. It has such a unique and subtle approaching to nature of kindness and altruism. All of humanity's greatest aspects are on display in a respectful and minimal approach. The idea that hope and wonder are all around us pervades every scene. The way the entire community comes together to help one of their own is such a touching sentiment (that is usually an afterthought in many films) and helps to support the "everyday miracle" framework of the story.
Le Havre is a film that doesn't break any conventions or reinvent the wheel, but it does put Kaurismaki's formidable confidence on display. Using his familial synergy with his crew to produce a stripped down tribute to love and acceptance, Kaurismaki shows once again that he is one of the most caring directors working today. Choosing to focus on the stories in between the stories is why this is the case. Le Havre is a great example of such a tale, a whispered emotional tempest that leaves you smiling with tears of joy upon it's conclusion.