They Have Escaped
Teenage outcasts decide to flee their disappointing lives in this new offering from Finnish director J.P. Valkeapää (The Visitor).
Joni, played by Teppo Manner, is a quiet young man who starts a job at a children’s home after going AWOL from his military service. He’s a social outcast, due primarily to a crippling stutter, and despite being told not to get to know the children at the home, he cannot help but be fascinated by the brash, confident, violent and angry Raisa, played by Roosa Söderholm. She doesn’t play well with the other children, and longs to escape the stifling rural children’s home. Quietly in the night, Joni and Raisa steal a car and drive off into the forest. Their road trip brings them an encounter with a sleazy travelling salesman, takes them to Helsinki to visit Raisa’s indifferent parents, and sends them to a remote island where they have naked, drug-addled adventures set to classical music. Joni quietly falls for Raisa, but Raisa keeps her distance, not trusting her capacity to love. They steal to fend for themselves, but the film takes a dark turn towards the end when their trespassing goes awry.
There is something familiar about the teenage desire to escape; that feeling like the entire world is against you, and you need to leave it all behind. Watching Joni and Raisa literally do this is part fantasy, part horrifying reality. The outcast leads are immediately relatable, and though Raisa is the louder, more dominant, but it’s the quiet Joni who is the star. His past isn’t expounded upon, and the fact that he doesn’t say a lot gives him an air of mystery that attracted me as a viewer. The film’s dark turn was a bit over the top, but that will come down to a matter of the audience’s personal taste.
They Have Escaped provides a relatable, intimate and harrowing taste of what it might have been like if we’d given in to our teenage desires to run away from the real world. (Cameron Bryant)
Saturday, September 13th, 10:00pm, Scotiabank 8