This sweet and satisfying, truthful and truly moving 2015 Finnish Estonian drama plays like a sword-based, serious-minded, real-life version of Dead Poets Society or School of Rock.
Director’s Klaus Härö’s film is incredibly good, never taking a false step, and Märt Avandi gives an exquisitely judged, so meticulous performance as Endel, the young Estonian fencer fleeing to his homeland from the Russian secret police. Biding his time, Endel decides to be useful, training a group of young children in the art of fencing – and of course inspiring them, but eventually endangering his own life in the process. Avandi is the heart and soul of the film, graduating slowly from chilly to warm as he finds he has a talent for teaching after all, and an empathy with the kids he hadn’t expected.
The film concentrates partly on Endel’s relationship with one troubled boy Jaan (Joonas Koff), whose grandfather (Lembit Ulfsak) leads the parental support for the fencing classes against the school’s dour, uninterested head, who eventually also treacherous. There are girls in the class too, especially feisty little Marta (Liisa Koppel), while Kirill Käro has a significant role in the story as Endel’s helpful friend Aleksei.
It was the Finnish nominee for the best foreign language film at the 2016 Academy Awards and it was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Movie Review
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