Aurora – Raindance Film Festival 2019 – Film Review

From Aurora’s captivating and humorous opening scene where its eponymous female protagonist is witnessed unsuccessfully hiding in a lift to escape from a one-night stand, it is obvious that this film differs to the traditional boy meets girl tale! Indeed, Aurora uttered ironically to her temporary beau, from the doors of the closing lift, that it was good that they talked before things became serious! It is this fresh, comic perspective from first time feature director Miia Tervo that distinguishes the film Aurora from the generic romantic comedy and is reminiscent of Bridesmaids and the recent film Animals.

Aurora Film Poster
Aurora Film Poster

Slapstick in nature with complex themes interwoven, the film unveils the chaos surrounding Aurora’s life. Mimosa Willamo portrays Aurora with such a tour de force that her quest to live life to the fullest seems boundless! Even during breaks at work Aurora is still maintaining a party lifestyle which continues into the evenings! A particularly noteworthy hilarious scene occurs in a bar involving stockings and Aurora’s pledge to liberate the exotic dancers on stage from their oppression!

Such hedonistic scenes are interspersed with confrontations with debt collectors, who are re-possessing household items following Aurora’s father’s failure to meet the bill payments, her caretaking of an elderly lady, and her fragile relationship with her father. From the outset, we are given those insights into a vulnerability beneath Aurora’s brittle veneer as well as her aspirations for a better life and opportunities in Norway.

Set in Finland, we are regularly presented with scenes in Rovaniemi (Lapland) of Aurora implausibly walking in high heels and a mini skirt in very treacherous, snowy conditions but there is also that recurring motif of her red coat, which is filmed from behind, as she walks to various locations. It is a visually stunning image, perhaps symbolic of ‘that’ fairy tale, as she traverses the neighbourhood seeking other sources of entertainment or else food, Aurora is quite often captured eating!

In a memorable quote, Aurora insists that, ‘just because you have occasional problems with drink, it does not mean that you have a drinking problem.’ We are therefore invited to suspend our disbelief and have faith that, despite the scenes of Aurora staggering home after drink fuelled nights, she does indeed have a modicum of control over her situation and is merely enjoying life. Indeed, the film offers no judgement on the antics of its protagonist and it is refreshing that the role of such a strong female character has not been reduced.

This would have been sufficient material concerning Aurora for the film simply to have been a tale of her journey through life. However, there are intercuts with the life of Darian, an Iranian refugee seeking asylum with his daughter. By contrast, Darian seems to be responsible and serious as he flees from a dangerous situation in his home country and thus craves stability. He is assisted by a doctor who provides him and his daughter with shelter.

Aurora and Darian’s worlds inevitably collide during a night at a fast food stand, where again Aurora is filmed eating. In spite of the Finnish setting their common language is English, which reflects the multi-cultural nature of the country and the film touches upon racism slightly. However, the film also breaks from the mould of the romantic comedy genre as Aurora, despite their obvious chemistry, offers to assist Darian to find a potential suitor. Darian’s predicament essentially means that he considers only two options for his life: to become married or to kill himself!

One scene in particular stands out during such matchmaking moments where Aurora, in the iconic red coat, Darian and a potential suitor are sitting in a taxi en route to be married, which results in an unexpected laugh out loud scenario!

In the taxi en route to Darian's wedding
In the taxi en route to Darian’s wedding

Unfortunately, the film does resort to some cultural stereotypes for quick laughs which are countered by some very witty quotes from Aurora. She mentions that ‘life smiles like a herring in a glass of sour milk’, which could simply be her philosophy of life! Such moments of lucidity are accentuated by a very effective soundtrack where scores from Cosi Fan Tutte can also be heard.

Equally, the pristine snow and the captivating long shots of the beautiful landscapes turn the weather into a character in its own right!

Aurora enjoying the snowy landscape
Aurora enjoying the snowy landscape

In one scene that struck me, there are icicles hanging from the window of an airport corridor which is so breathtakingly beautiful that I wished to visit Finland at that point! We are also privy to a test of Aurora’s resolve in such scenes which are extremely riveting and testament to the superb, emotional performance by Willamo that I was certainly willing her to succeed!

With such a flawed protagonist, we are subjected to highs and lows with some extremely poignant moments in the film Aurora. There is a slight degree of predictability, but this is outweighed by the sheer magnitude of Willamo’s performance meaning that you will either love or loathe the character Aurora. This is certainly her film with the male character almost sidelined as the love interest for a fresh take on the genre.

I would certainly enjoy revisiting this film and I hope that it will receive UK distribution soon so that you can watch it too.

The trailer for Aurora can be accessed here

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