A Moment in the Reeds is a quiet and intense romantic drama about two young men who embark on a tension-filled tryst at an isolated summer cottage. The film follows a familiar plot, but the drama touches on various relevant issues that impact the lives of the young Finnish man home from studying abroad and the Syrian refugee hired to help renovate the Finnish man’s summer cottage.
The movie begins with the prodigal son, Leevi (Janee Puustinen), begrudgingly returning home to help his father renovate their summer cottage. It is immediately clear Leevi has a strained relationship with his father, Jouko (Mika Melender). Jouko holds some traditional views of masculinity which his gay son clearly does not adhere to. The strained relationship is rooted in a generational divide, past family trauma, and the father’s inability to fully accept his son’s sexuality. Jouko has hired a Syrian man named Tareq (Boodi Kabbani) to help fix his home, knowing that his son is not that handy. He has inadvertently created a complicated situation because sparks fly when Leevi and Tareq meet.
When Tareq arrives, the father has a less than ideal reaction to the young man who does not speak Finnish and is a refugee. The movie hits its sweet spot by showcasing through the characters the uncomfortable situation most Europeans are in when they are confronted with immigration and refugees (sometimes a result of wars their nations are involved in). There are two key moments that reveal Finland’s role in the Syrian crisis through Jouko’s behaviour. Jouko is insistent about his son’s enlistment to the army, and references that Leevi may serve in Syria or someplace else. Throughout the film, Jouko often cannot contain his feelings of prejudice towards Tareq. Now, while the movie draws out the tension between the Tareq, Jouko and Leevi, the heart of the film is Leevi and Tareq’s relationship.
The relationship is the core of the narrative and is used to explore the political and cultural situation of Finland. However, the movie’s primary focus is the bittersweet and delicate relationship that unfolds between Leevi and Tareq. The writing for the couple is intense and natural, and this naturalism is perhaps aided by the fact that our leads are openly gay actors. This is a significant step forward for representation of the LGBTQ+ community on-screen, and it adds more depth and authenticity to their performances. Kabbani and Puustinen have chemistry that pops on-screen and both have a very nuanced approach to their respective roles. The film is minimalistic in terms of its production design and dialogue, taking place in a single setting for most of its runtime. Puustinen and Kabbani do a fine job taking advantage of this and keep the audience engaged the entire movie.
The film is very deliberate in how it unfolds the drama at the summer cottage between the three men. Tareq fled persecution and a war-torn country, only to step into another complicated situation – this time with romantic stakes. Leevi is trying to live the life he prefers without being tethered to his father’s traditional ways, and Jouko is desperately trying to keep up with a rapidly changing world. It is simple, but also filled with these poignant moments that explore issues that have larger implications on these men’s lives.
A Moment in the Reeds is available December 4, 2018 in the U.S. and Canada on digital, and in the U.S. on DVD & Blu-ray via Amazon.