In Finnish director Miia Tervo’s new comedy drama Aurora, a young woman whose life is quickly spiraling out of control, finds an unlikely kindred spirit in a taciturn Iranian asylum seeker. Set in Lapland and starring prolific Finnish TV actress Mimosa Willamo, the film presents a fairly simple, yet deeply moving tale of love, loss and alienation in one of the most remote regions of Europe.
Aurora (Willamo)’s life is a mess. With her mother recently deceased and her alcoholic father drying-out once again at a rehab unit at the local hospital, the shambolic twenty-something woman has so far struggled to cope with life as an adult. Dreaming of moving to Sweden where she can earn more money practising her job as a beautician, Aurora has very little time for romance and even less time for deep meaningful conversations.
After a chance meeting with Darian (Amir Escandari), a handsome young Iranian widower awaiting to be awarded asylum in Finland alongside his young daughter, the two quickly hit it off but agree to remain just friends. Threatened with imminent deportation, Darian begs Aurora to find him a suitable candidate for marriage to help keep him in the country. Hilarity and much soul-searching ensue when Aurora, who has found a new job looking after an eccentric wealthy old lady, finds herself torn between wanting to fall back into her old habits and her burgeoning feelings for Darian. Things are further complicated when Darian’s luck runs out and has to decide what to do next.
Miia Tervo offers a slightly flawed, yet utterly charming drama comedy which manages to be both fun and thought-provoking in equal measure. By setting the action in the isolated region of Lapland, Tervo manages to convey a deep sense of alienation and isolation in both her central characters. With moments of heartening tenderness and brilliant comedic timing, the writer/director has managed to convey a fantastically well-observed comedy of errors and a universal love story which succeeds in transcending both nationality and race.
Mimosa Willamo gives an impressive turn as a young woman attempting to make sense of her life after a lifetime of trauma and disappointments. For his part, newcomer Amir Escandari does a great job as the brooding taciturn loner who cannot help but fall for his friend’s irresistible joie de vivre and shambolic existence.
Overall, Aurora does a great in highlighting to plight of asylum seekers in Europe all the while injecting a sense of universality to Aurora and Darian’s story. While the film doesn’t ever claim to reinvent the drama-comedy wheel, it does however offer a great deal of insight and heart.
Aurora will be playing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 programme.