Future Frames 2017 Review: After The Reunion

"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength, "said Betty Friedan, one of the founders of the feminist movement. She clearly never read Martin Amis’ London Fields where the British author stated: “And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.” The different sentiments expressed in these two statements are perhaps indicative of humanity’s complex relationship with aging. Still one of the great taboos of society, we are constantly being given contradictory advice about how deal with life as our time moves on. “Be appreciative and embrace the wisdom of the years,” we’re told in one ear. In the other we’re told to keep the wrinkles at bay under any cost. Kirsikka Saari’s After The Reunion provides a brief snapshot of this dilemma and – perhaps – offers a small glimmer of hope that our contradictory attitudes can be reconciled.

Fifty-year-old Saila wakes up in the morning to find herself in the bed of Esa. The previous night she attended her class reunion and meetings with former classmates – amongst them Esa – remind her of a life once lived. As she faces the morning, her scepticism about life and aging contrast with Esa’s cheerful acceptance of the inevitability of getting older. As her mild irritation at Esa’s puppy-like happiness turns to anger, Saila begins to realise that maybe the march of time is not as bad as she originally thought.

Saari’s film deals in some ways with the schism between interiority and reality. When Saila wakes up, we’re in a white walled bedsit, replete with washed out hues and a décor that screams ‘single male’. As we flashback to the night before, we’re in a world of colour as Saila and her friends do their make-up in front of a mirror, talk about men and urge others to “unfriend him.” She is still wanting to act like a teenager, and the reunion is a chance to continue to do that: it’s only in the cold light of morning that it becomes apparent that people are seeing through her act.

It would be east to depict Saila as shrill and one-note, but Sari Siikander gives nuance in a brilliant performance that alternates between blustering annoyance and quiet despair. She is matched by Petteri Pennilä as Esa whose hangdog ease creates a contrast to Saila. Despite being divorced and alone, there is an acceptance of his situation and hope for the future as he gives off an air of resigned happiness (even when worrying about a lump that has appeared under his arm). The contrast between the two gives Saila pause to think about her attitude towards getting old – is it really as bad as she thinks?

The film also hints at the disparity between the way male aging is treated as opposed to female aging. As Esa lollops around his apartment, unshaven and in a T-Shirt and pants, Saila struggles with a corset as she gets her clothes on. Women are not just encouraged to defy aging but also to be uncomfortable while doing so.

The final moments of the film offer the possibility of change and acceptance as Saila stands in a bus queue and thinks of times passed. After The Reunion tries to celebrate being comfortable in one’s own skin and – while Saila may have a long way to go – there is hope for that possibility there. Naturalistic and tender, the film is a great use of the short form as it provides us with a brief moment of change that could alter a person’s outlook forever.

After The Reunion has already played at a number of festivals, including Palm Springs and Tampere, but as it screens at European Film Promotion’s Future Frames at Karlovy Vary it will most likely win a few more fans and will undoubtedly crop up at a few more festivals over the coming months. The film was produced under the auspices of Finlands Aalto University.

You can read an interview with Kirsikka Saari HERE

Film Information
Original Title: Luokkakokouksen jälkeen
English Title: After The Reunion
Director: Kirsikka Saari
Country: Finland
Year: 2016
Run Time: 14 mins
Contact: The Finnish Film Foundation, ses@ses.fi

01 July 2017, by Laurence Boyce