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TIME names Fallen Leaves the best film of 2023

Actors Jussi Vatanen (on the left), Alma Pöysti, and director Aki Kaurismäki celebrate the film's world premiere in Cannes.

Lasse Lecklin

TIME magazine has revealed its best films of 2023 and picked Aki Kaurismäki’s feature Fallen Leaves for the top spot.

The US magazine praises the Finnish director for working magic with his 20th film, which follows two lonely people who meet by chance in Helsinki. It goes on to call Kaurismäki “the master of the deadpan humanist comedy”.

“Sometimes all it takes to turn your world around, for a few hours at least, is a small Finnish movie about a woman unjustly fired from her job, a stubborn drunk guy who knows when he’s hit the wall, and a preternaturally expressive yellow dog,” TIME critic Stephanie Zacharek writes in her review.

Fallen Leaves premiered at Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, where it was awarded the Jury Prize. The film has garnered widespread critical acclaim since, including glowing reviews in The New York Times and The Guardian. In August, the film won the 2023 Fipresci Grand Prix at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. The award was voted on by 669 members of the International Federation of Film Critics. 

In September, the film was chosen as Finland’s official entry for the international feature category at the 2024 Oscars. A shortlist of 15 finalists will be announced on 21 December. So far, Kaurismäki’s 2002 film, The Man Without a Past, is the only Finnish film ever to have been shortlisted for the award. 

Fallen Leaves stands out for its modest 81-minute running time. 

Fallen Leaves has also received two Golden Globe nominations. One in the non-English language best picture category and another for the best female actor in a musical or comedy motion picture for the film’s lead actress Alma Pöysti. The award ceremony will be held on 7 January 2024.

The film has equally become an audience favourite. It became the most-watched film of 2023 in Finnish cinemas, with over 200 000 tickets sold in just 10 weeks after its September release.

Overall, the year has been exciting for Finnish films, with the industry making great strides in inclusivity and gaining new financing opportunities, including a 100-million-euro fund from IPR.VC.

By: Eeva Haaramo