For the next entry in this month’s Genre Grandeur – Holiday movies, here’s a review by Eddie of Sidekick Reviews for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Next month’s genre has been chosen by my good friend Emma of emmakwall (explains it all) and she has chosen the genre of British Thrillers, so send me your reviews of your favorite British Thriller(s) by Jan 25th and I’ll post it. It’s real simple, just send me an email to email@example.com and I’ll post it.
Here’s Edie’s thoughts on it
Director: Jalmari Helander
Cast: Onni Tommila, Jorman Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
What drew me to watching ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ for the Genre Grandeur on Holiday Movies is that I was in the mood for something a little darker, something not overly sentimental.
Across the internet, Rare Exports has received fairly positive reviews and anecdotally some fans have added Rare Exports to their annual Christmas movies watch list, not bad for a fantasy-thriller Finnish movie based on a couple of short videos.
Rare Exports puts a sinister twist on a well-known Christmas folk legend. The story takes place in a remote mountainous region of Finland and is told from the perspective of a pre-teen child named Pietari. One day, Pietari and his best friend venture onto an excavation site and discover that the mining company has uncovered something mysterious deep within the mountain.
The first section of the movie does a good job at establishing the main characters Pietari and his father, a rugged reindeer hunter named Rauno, whose relationship reminds me a little bit of Hiccup and Stoick from How To Train Your Dragon. The chemistry between them is very natural and it wasn’t until after the movie I learned they are real life father and son actors.
The best developed aspect of Rare Exports is Pietari’s coming of age. Pietari is at the age when many kids either start to question or learn the truth about Santa Claus. His naivety is endearing, at the same time he’s the only person who seems to know what’s really going on.
While the character building is effective, I wished that the slow burn suspense led to a bigger payoff in the final act. On the other hand, perhaps the charm of Rare Exports is that the twist isn’t the one you might have had in mind. In terms of the horror, there aren’t any big scares although director Jalmari Helander skilfully evokes a sense of morbid creepiness in the right places. The black comedy undertone, especially in the denouement, didn’t quite work for me but I can see other movie goers enjoying the dark humour.
Not a criticism but rather an observation that there are some differences in cultural sensibilities between Finnish and Hollywood filmmaking. For instance, Pietari wouldn’t need to put a BB gun on his Christmas wish list because his father has already given him a loaded shot-gun. Even though Rare Exports features a child protagonist, it’s not a family oriented film. If remade in North America, I would imagine the studio execs targeting a broader demographic by eliminating the violence and nudity, maybe even making Pietari’s best friend a girl because the movie doesn’t have a female character.
The cinematography and visual effects are more than adequate. However, the real strengths of Rare Exports is that the core characters are likeable and for the most part the story is entertaining. Rare Exports offers a decent mix of father and son drama, deadpan humour and creepiness at times. The weaker elements have more to do with my own personal tastes rather than a serious flaw with the movie. That said, Rare Exports isn’t a Christmas classic but it has some heart and is a refreshing change of pace from many other holiday themed movies.