Open on a cartoon gag: inside the dank hull of a coal freighter the lumps have eyes. Our two heroes — Khaled (Sherwan Haji), the aforementioned blackened Syrian refugee and Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) a burly traveling salesman-turned restaurateur — won’t officially be introduced until halfway through the picture. In the meantime, writer-director Aki Kaurismäki (The Match Factory Girl, Le Havre) expeditiously uses the first hour of the picture of his wise and gentle comedy to quietly upend the audience’s expectations. (Imagine the austere likes of French formalist Robert Bresson with a contrary sense of humor, and you’ll get a sense of which way this comedy of misdirection is headed.) The more well-intentioned among us would have preferred spending two hours fixating on Khaled’s bleak past. Kaurismäki looks to the future with an off-kilter crazy bone that prevents the film from ever becoming maudlin or preachy. One couldn’t help but think of the obvious, heavy-handed messaging we’d be spared if all directors followed Kaurismäki’s expert smuggling techniques. (2017) — Scott Marks
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