Fallen Leaves is a heartfelt romantic drama set in modern-day Helsinki. It is the 20th movie by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki who has a special gift for revealing the sadness, suffering and loneliness of down-and-out people experiencing troubled times.

Ansa (Alma Poysti) is a middle-aged woman who lives alone and has a low-paying job at a supermarket. When a security guard reports her for taking an out-of-date sandwich, she is fired. She quickly gets a new job washing glasses at a bar. But when the owner is hauled away for selling drugs, Ansa feels like she’s at the end of her rope. Plus, every time she turns on the radio, she hears a news report on the death and destruction happening in Ukraine. This woman really needs to connect with someone!

Then she meets Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a quiet, soft-spoken alcoholic whose addiction leads him to being fired from one job after another. Their faces barely revealing any emotion, they both appear closed off in their loneliness. Still, he asks her to go out for coffee and then to see a movie. It’s Jim Marmusch’s zombie horror movie The Dead Don’t Die. Later Holappa asks her whether she liked the movie. Revealing the kind of deadpan humor Kaurismaki is known for, she answers: “Yes, I never laughed so much.”

Alma Poysti as Ansa

This couple’s attempts to build an intimate relationship is hobbled by lost phone numbers, accidents, and misunderstandings. She doesn’t want to be with an alcoholic, and he doesn’t want to be bossed around. Alma Poysti who plays Alma has stated: “The film is about lonely people with baggage who meet later in life. It takes courage to fall in love later in life.”

Sometimes they need a little help. You will not be surprised to learn that here the one who helps pull Alma and later Holappa out of the doldrums is a dog.