In this wry Finnish drama, a disabled man embarks on a journey to visit his girlfriend, encountering inaccessible infrastructure and evil goons along the way.
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By Devika Girish
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The opening scenes of Teemu Nikki’s film tell us two things about its protagonist, Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen): first, that he’s a cinephile who can’t get through a single conversation without referencing John Carpenter; second, that he is blind and uses a wheelchair.
“The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic” is a darkly comic drama about how Jaakko navigates life as a disabled man in Finland, yet his disability isn’t his defining characteristic. His wry judgments on movies are probably what you’ll remember most vividly about him, including his description of James Cameron’s “Titanic” as “the most expensive and calculated turd ever.”
Jaakko may pretend he’s above sap, but he’s a romantic at heart. His daily phone conversations with his long-distance girlfriend, Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala), are as tender as they are witty, and when Sirpa’s cancer worsens, Jaakko embarks on a journey befitting a Hollywood caper: He sets off to visit her on his own, fumbling his way from taxi to train through a dispiritingly inaccessible urban landscape.
Like his character, Poikolainen has multiple sclerosis, which has caused vision loss and partial paralysis. Nikki places us squarely within his perspective: The camera stays close to Jaakko, always at his eye level, blurring everything around him. But the script struggles to channel the character’s wonderfully playful, acerbic spirit.
The obstacles Jaakko encounters range from banally outrageous (malfunctioning elevators at train stations) to cinematically outrageous (evil, goofy muggers wielding knives). Jaakko can’t help referencing “Fargo” even as he’s being threatened, but rather than follow that cue and dial up the whimsy, the plot eventually thins out into dissatisfying contrivances. Jaakko deserves better — and the charming, arresting Poikolainen does, too.
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic
Not rated. In Finnish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes. In theaters.
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