A man gets beaten to the brink of death, awakes in a hospital not knowing who he is, and ends up restarting his life by getting a job at the Salvation Army in the slums of Helsinki in this amusing but ultimately flat comedy called The Man Without a Past.
Markku Peltola stars as the man with no name, who does a good job of being the all around nice guy - the Billy Budd if you will - that is just consistently screwed over because he can't remember anything about his past life. Because of his charm he quickly finds friends in the unlikeliest of places, including a girlfriend that works at the Salvation Army with him. Peltola is funny in a very dry kind of way.
The Man Without a Past is the Finnish film nominated for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award this last year, and with such a nomination I had high nominations. Though I have already been disappointed this year by another nomination, the Dutch film Zus and Zo, I have also seen two great foreign films, the Oscar-winner Nowhere in Africa and El Crimen Del Padre Amaro. Sadly, The Man Without a Past sets the table even, as it does not have any qualities of an Oscar-worthy film.
The Man Without a Past is strangely funny and methodical, extracting humor from things that would typically not be considered funny in any circumstances. It is also is good at being the most lighthearted dark comedy ever, as it is funny even when the main character is getting beaten over the head with a baseball bat yet never really reaches a point that would not be suitable for children (not to say that this is a children's movie, however).
Nonetheless, it is boring at times, and more than anything else just simple. It is decent but not extraordinary, and really has no reason to be graced with such a term as "Oscar nomination." Who knows what the voters were thinking, but this movie just doesn't fit.
The Man Without a Past has its moments and is never bad, but it is never very good, either. Instead it is just as bland and drab as the director was going for, but that is not a compliment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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