To paraphrase Edmund Burke in order for evil to triumph, good men do nothing. “Le Havre” revolves around a good man doing something. Elegant, dignified shoeshine charmer “Marcel” (beautifully and poignantly depicted by Andre Wilms) discovers an undocumented boy, “Idrissa” (Blondin Miguel) and without equivocation decides to devote his time to rescuing and sending him to London where his mother lives.
“Le Havre” is a fairy tale, so enchanting and pleasing that it is over long before you yearn for a conclusion; this is the substance of entertainment; the comforting blanket, the protective warmth of solid filmmaking, characters with true grit, living happily, complacent in a world, a neighborhood where all is copasetic, ideals, dreams realized, acceptance of “self” determined long before we meet them.
“Le Havre” is a love story: Marcel and his wife “Arletty” ( stunningly, quietly portrayed by Kati Outinen) live in a pristine bubble of rarefied sensitivity (unlike narcissistic couples of today) where pleasing each other takes precedence over their own needs, or desires. Stripped of materialism, their love, glimmers, glows with an imperturbable essence; all long for, but rarely glimpse. Director Aki Kaurismaki has given birth to a magical partnership.
“Le Havre” is a gentle, not uproarious, comedy. Inspector “Monet” tight-lipped, lacking all the color of the impressionist painter, delightfully underplayed by Jean-Pierre Darroussin; “Laika” the dog, sagely anthropomorphic, plies levity and shrewdness to the saga: the patrons, imbibers at La Moderne add a touch of realistic class and appropriate “local color” to the involvement and evolvement of Marcel’s mission; we can envision having a glass of calvados and a scintillating conversation with these folks.
“Le Havre” is a metaphor for how one should live; it gifts the viewer a taste of truth, many may have experienced, now only a shriveled memory; exiting, recognizing that pulsating beneath the detritus of every day minutia lies the “Le Havre” that resides, can be revived and once again thrive in all who seek it.