The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Directed by Juho Kuosmanen
Written By Juho Kuosmanen, Mikko Myllylahti
Running time 93 min
Limited release is May 5th 2017 at the Magnolia
Starring: Oona Airola, Jarkko Lahti, Eero Milonoff
First off, this lovely little gem about boxing and romance is in black and white and was shot entirely on 16mm film. Secondly it’s in Finnish with English subtitles. I know for most of you hooked on just mainstream films which go boom, bang and pow that this is enough for you to skip to the next film review…. Well, go ahead and just leave now because the grown ups are talking.
You still here? Well there might be hope for you yet. This new film The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki is based on the true story of Olli Maki (Jarkko Lahti), the famous amateur-turned-professional Finnish Boxer who had a shot at the 1962 World Boxing Association Featherweight title. It was billed as Olli “The Baker of Kokkola” vs Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.) the renowned American world champion at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. This was the nation wanting to bring the title to their little country. The Match would be one of the biggest events in Finnish sporting history even though most people were worried about the fact that Moore’s record vastly outclassed Olli’s.
Olli is under a lot of stress. He is not used to all the press and fuss surrounding him. Also he must lose weight within the course of two weeks to qualify for the featherweight category. In the midst of his intense training he also realizes, much to the chagrin of his manager Elis Ask (Eero Milonoff), that he is falling in love with his friend Raija (Oona Airola) who traveled from their small town with him to the big city of Helsinki to prepare for his big break.
Because the manager feels that Raija is a distraction he never asks her to leave but lets her know that she is in the way. Once she goes back home Olli has a hard time dealing with the very grueling training he has to go thru without the support Raija gave him.
Towards the end of his training he is overwhelmed by the documentary being done on him and having to please all the people that are funding the fight and training. He breaks down and runs back home for a day to take a break and share his heart with Raija. Their relationship is not witty or flashy it’s just quiet and organic and has the ring of truth to it. I loved them together. Having asked her to marry him, he can go back to the big city alone to finish his training and prepare for the fight of his life.
I really loved the cinematography and feel of this movie. That’s the beauty of a well shot black and white film. The shadows are dark and inky and this first time feature director is not afraid to use that. Also black and white lends itself to boxing films, think Raging Bull. This movie has you hooked in the first five minutes with its look and pacing not to mention the great music it sprinkles in.
I won’t spoil it for you and tell you who wins the fight because really the build up to the fight is what it’s really all about. You’ll have to see the film to know who wins. What I will tell you is that you’ll enjoy this quiet little film.