The Grump: In Search of an Escort [Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä] — Scandinavian Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Mielensäpahoittaja (the grump), played by Heikki Kinnunen, lives and works on his ancestral farm in Finland.  Born on the farm he knows no other way of life.  Alone since his wife died and his sons, Hessu (Iikka Forss) and Pekka (Ville Tiihonen), moved away and had families of their own, the grump has only his neighbour, Kolehmainen (Silu Seppälä), as company.  But he has his memories and the joy of driving his beloved red 1972 Escort.

When the grump crashes his car beyond repair he refuses to countenance replacing it with any other type of vehicle.  But red 1972 Escorts are uncommon; the only one available is in Germany, where the grump’s estranged elder brother, Tarmo (Kari Väänänen), lives.  But he’ll be in and out of Germany in a couple of days; he won’t even let his brother know he’s there.

When best-laid plans go awry, the brothers come face to face for the first time in forty years.  As their past comes into focus, what emerges includes some painful truths that led to the breaking of the close brotherly bonds they had once shared.

Running parallel to the brothers’ story are the stories of their offspring.  Hessu is feeling the intrusion of technology into his attempts to bond with his children as he was unable to bond with his father; Pekka’s life has suddenly taken a dramatic turn for the worse, threatening his future and his marriage; and Maria (Rosalie Thomass), Tarmo’s daughter, must decide whether she now wants her father in her and her son’s lives, given that he abandoned her when she was a child.

The cast’s performances all round balance one another perfectly.  Kinnunen’s grump is admirably indomitable and unswerving; Väänänen’s Tarmo, his brother’s opposite by nature, makes a terrific foil for him; Seppälä offers credible surprises as friend and neighbour Kolehmainen; and Forss and Tiihonen, as the grump’s sons Hessu and Pekka respectively, take the viewer into the complexities of the past’s effects on their demanding presents.  Ably supported by the rest of the cast, the various stories weave together, with understanding and forgiveness paving the way to a satisfying resolution.

An intriguing character study that shows clashes both across and within generations living in increasingly different worlds and the unchanging nature of our fundamental humanity, The Grump: In Search of an Escort offers a thoughtful exploration of hurt, misunderstanding, forgiveness, and the power of kindness and love.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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