Altered Innocence: Our Review of ‘Concrete Night’ on OVID

Posted in What's Streaming? by - March 14, 2024
Altered Innocence: Our Review of ‘Concrete Night’ on OVID

Simo (Johannes Brotherus), the teen protagonist of  Concrete Night, gets a break from his broken dysfunctional family. His break comes in the form of him hanging out with his best friend and swimming near an industrial wasteland. But he eventually has to return to his family, as his Mother (Anneli Karppinen) convinces him to hang out with his older brother. That brother is Ilkka (Jari Virman), who gets two nights of freedom before going to prison. While hanging out, they experience the sides of Helsinki, as they go from the slums and downtown and explore their demons. Their slums also have a new addition – a gay man next door who brings out the worst in Simo.

This is Brotherus’ feature length debut and he brings a subtle performance here, using his body to convey Simo’s emotions. All of this comes across seemingly despite the film’s efforts to put black and white style over substance. The film depicts extremes, like wide shots of Helsinki and its different districts, or closeups of characters’ hands. Post 60s are only in black and white to evince bleakness. This is true even for better examples of black and white bro cinema like La Haine or Raging Bull but to this film’s credit, its extremes somehow show the characters’ tender sides. Characters like Ilkka are hard to redeem, especially when he’s starting to philosophise, and Concrete Night at doing so.

Well, to a certain extent. Concrete Night also belongs within the microgenre of films where everything happens in a night of its characters’ lives. It does its best at innovating within this subgenre by deliberately slowing down its pace. The film’s second act is where it tries to find its visual middle ground, finally giving its characters the spotlights they deserve. There is a plus and minus on this approach though. Because slowing down also affects the dialogue between Simo and Ilkka. I get it, Ilkka isn’t probably the best person to get advice from, but the film can at least let him try.

Dialogue is necessary in film’s talking era, and if a filmmaker cuts that down, they better be good. The world of Pirjo Honkasalo’s Concrete Night is also full of Simo’s teen logic, for worse or for better. A world full of surprising betrayal and these characters deal with that betrayal with violence and regret. I wrote some points against it above. But there are a few more things about this film that I take umbrage with. Honkasalo is just copying the male gaze and the gay character is a stereotype. Ninety-nine percent of older gay men – speaking as a middle aged one – do not care about some random twink ass. 

Altered Innocence and OVID and collaborating to show Nordic tales, with the latter streaming Concrete Night, an adaptation of a cult novel, soon.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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