Le Havre

Rated 4.0

Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismäki turns his poker-faced gaze to the titular French port city, where, between negotiations with an ailing wife (Kati Outinen), a lurking police inspector (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), and various eccentric neighbors, an aging bohemian shoeshiner (André Wilms) comes to the aid of a young African refugee (Blondin Miguel). Outwardly a composed, self-consciously prosaic melodrama, the movie does not give away whatever inner magic transmutes it into an affecting parable about human decency, but such is the (subdued) thrill of Kaurismäki’s poignant minimalism. Too good-mannered to become sentimental, this might not work at all without the director’s characteristic deadpan style, by which building community becomes just a matter of letting long pauses play. J.K.