Compelling if flawed, the one thing you can’t fault here is the title.
Driving right at the heart of the radically different notions that makes this film tick, The Other Side of Hope manages to be both an atypically dark comedy for those most jaundiced with human nature and at times an adversely uplifting story.
Having the potential to draw any number of emotions and reactions from audiences, the film nonetheless suffers from having not one, but arguably three very distinct and often greatly divergent plot strands. There’s that of a man, his penchant for gambling, his wife and their crumbling marriage, that of the restaurant he buys in the second act and just what this means for its colourful staff, as well as the story of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian refugee who arrives in Finland, seeks asylum and, eventually, falls in with the aforementioned restaurateur.
Humanising and bringing to the fore the type of experience now faced by so many in Europe, alone one of these tangents, all sparsely different and often notionally connected, would be enough to transfix an audience for two hours. Together, not one gets enough time to really shine through in what is a frequently funny yet regrettably disjointed film.
With Khaled’s tragic background, struggles and now new experiences in Finland proving The Other Side of Hope’s most intriguing chapter, this soon largely gives way to a more farcical, Wes Anderson-light treatment of the film’s floundering eatery, complete with figures more evidently present to strike a visual tone than even two lines of involving dialogue. The transformations the setting goes through a laugh-inducing if passing thrill; a feature focused on these changes alone, or Khaled’s moving story or even our gambler’s travails, of which we are allowed precious little knowledge, could have gone a long way to making the film that much more engaging.
Nevertheless memorable for some of it’s notably discomforting and darkly black comic stylings as well as a selective use of jarringly incongruous music, The Other Side of Hope doesn’t quite pull off the promise that each and every one of its discordant strands had going for it.
The Other Side of Hope is screening at the Sydney Film Festival