Land of Hope is a charming Historical Romance out of Finland. It takes place amidst the events of the Continuation War, where Finland fought off an infringing Soviet Union, to defend Finnic borders. Anni (an alluring Oona Airola), is the strong-willed daughter of a prominent baker. When her brother dies in the war, war invalid Veikko (a reliable Konsta Laakso), comes to return her brother’s horse, Liinu (played by a fantastic horse), and they find a spark of romance in the stables.
This is against the will of her father (Antti Virmavirta), who leads the family with a domineering, patriarchal style. She should marry within similar means if he has his way. Whenever her father sits and prepares for a big speech, a wonderful Godfather-esque musical scene permeates the room. He does not take any consideration that he was only a journeyman baker before he had the good fortune of meeting Anni’s mother. Anni’s own ripostes are pithy wonders of female invention. She always has the right words at the back of her tongue and is fast to set the cast of peculiar men right, truly wonderful and perfectly of-the-moment in modern cinema.
Veikko is a little different than the other men. If he ever had a chauvinistic spirit it was broken by the war. His back is covered in injuries sustained on the frontlines. He carries a sweet spirit and disposition that immediately endears him to Anni and the audience. He’s a bit of a horse whisperer and has just the right words for Liinu, which are also the right words for Anni.
They start a farm in Karelia, land that has been regained from the Soviets. It is the renewed land of their country and so holds pungent hope for starting something new. They begin building on nothing more than a foundation. The film is also about a country rebuilding and healing. The Soviets have gone and over the course of the years covered, Finland have disavowed Germany as useful allies of their past and held the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
Land of Hope is a picture of national healing. It creates such vivid images through the strong chemistry of its cast. The couple’s resilience is impressive and emblematic of their country in this moment in time. We root for the couple as they build from the foundation – and when everything goes awry, and the house burns down – we hope that it does not ruin them and they might rebuild.
Markku Pölönen’s film is a delightful, briskly moving affair about the Finnish spirit, a snapshot of a certain moment in time. As the couple build and rebuild their home, the Finnish spirit is built alongside it. The film is also a declaration of independence, where the fight for the borders have subsided and now romance and love can blossom in their place. Land of Hope is as hopeful and optimistic for the national spirit of Finland as the title indicates and is a crowd-pleasing romance to be absolutely sure.