The Happiest Day in The Life of Olli Mäki – BFI LFF – Review

The baker of Kokkola, Olli Mäki a Finnish featherweight boxer whom in 1962 fought for the world championship in his home nation. Thrusted into Finnish limelight, the gentile and canny Olli feels at odds with the attention and publicity he has to endure. More used to carrying a sack of flour on his shoulders than the hopes of a nation, Olli would rather spend time with his girlfriend than wine and dine for sponsorship deals, much to the frustration and annoyance of his coach, Elis Ask, a former boxing champion who tells Olli winning the championship will be the happiest day in his life.

A slightly unconventional boxing biopic about the journey of an underdog, that director Juho Kuosmanen claims this to be more a portrait of a local legend from his hometown. Presented as black and white, it provides a classical tone that really compliments the time period. The film oodles charm and heart that would melt the coldest Finnish winter snow. Performances feel spot on and despite Olli’s modesty he is full of endearing charisma. It’s caressed with light-hearted humour throughout. If there is fault to be found it’s within the lack of conflict that is rather understated, or left to not be overly embellished, that means the climax is left wanting and absent of a heart in our mouths moment. The only flaw in a film that is accomplished in script, performance, sound and visuals, Kuosmanen has crafted a film about a boxer that is a knock out, all be it with a pillow fight than boxing match. The Happiest Day in The Life of Olli Mäki firmly deserves cult status, beyond the city of Kokkola.

★★★★

Chris Aitken

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