Having been one of the most well-received films at the Berlinale earlier this year, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki returns with The Other Side of Hope, which carries a droll Scandinavian wit, with stilted, endearingly unnatural dialogue. And yet amidst the laughs, of which there are many, comes a profound, pertinent tale surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis.

Sherwan Haji plays Khaled, who hides on a ship, seeking asylum and solace in Finland. Housed temporarily until he learns of the outcome of his trial, and whether he’s legally allowed to remain in Europe – he dreams only of his sister, who he had lost contact with on his route. We then encounter Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen), a restaurateur who leaves his wife and wins a lot of money playing poker, to then open up a new establishment. Initially we aren’t quite sure how both he and Khaled’s lives will intertwine, but it feels like something of an inevitability.

The Other Side of Hope Given we adopt the outside perspective of Khaled, new to this nation, it allows for the viewer to appreciate the quirks and sensibilities of the Finnish people. This is highlighted by the wonderfully implemented musical interludes, mostly of buskers on the street, breaking up some of the emotionally deeper sequences with an eccentric piece of music. It’s this balancing of the real and surreal which makes this such a noteworthy endeavour. The means of communication between characters is Napoleon Dynamite-esque, but the themes are powerful and relevant. Khaled’s story is made to be comical in parts, but at its core is a moving individual narrative which can be transferred to so many refugees in a similar situation – lost, away from home, scared and alone. We read many stats in the newspaper, but this is a harsh reminder that each and every person having to flea their nation because of the war, has a story personal to them, each as poignant as the next.

It’s a testament to Haji that we invest so much in Khaled’s cause, for the role comes equipped with very little dialogue, so much of the nuances are subtly presented, with an understated turn by the actor. The only real issue with the film is that too much time is spent focusing in on Wikstrom’s side of the narrative, as while the restaurant scenes in particular are incredibly funny, on the whole it may have been beneficial to focus more energy on Khaled – as its his scenes that make more of an impact.

The Other Side of Hope is released on May 26th