The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016) is a charming and beautifully stylised film from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen; perfectly bringing the WoW Festival to a close. The film retells the true story of underdog boxer Olli Mäki’s big fight with American champion Davey Moore in Helsinki, 1962. Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) becomes distracted throughout his preparations for the match however; he has a documentary film crew following him, he’s far from home, and has realised that he’s fallen in love with Raija Jänkä (Oona Airola).
Kuosmanen chose to film on black and white stock, not at feature length industry standard. This, in combination with cinematography that emulates the long takes and dynamic movements of 60s European cinema, made The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki look authentic. Throughout the film, you begin to forget that this is a recently released film that won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The performances are understated in their tenderness and the portrayals of the relevant Finnish landscapes are honest; a style reminiscent of the 1962 film The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner. Yet, the stylisation of the film isn’t nostalgic by any means; but is immersive, successful and genuine. And in the character of Mäki himself, and Lahti’s performance, most of the film’s themes emerge. The slow degeneration of his athletic determination and basic need for peace and familiarity show themselves as the film progresses in a subtle and very real way.
This film is a delight to watch. It is funny, true to the real Mäki, and has a sweet love story at the core of it; whilst also being beautiful in terms of its authentic narrative and neo-realistic filmmaking.
Sadia Pineda Hameed