The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki
On paper this film weighs in at being just another boxing replica: an underdog with a shot at a world title battles his inner turmoil to carve out some sense of glory. But debutant director Juho Kuosmanen’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is the true underdog – a masterfully vulnerable glimpse at a delicate boxer’s bout to find peace within himself.
Winner of Un Certain Regard 2016 at Cannes, Kuosmanen’s first feature-length film follows the true-story tale of the Finnish boxer, Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti), in his attempt to dethrone Davey Moore as Featherweight champion of the world. Shot predominately in Helsinki on 16mm black and white monochrome stock to better encapsulate the 1960s, the cinematography is powerfully serene and unmistakably beautiful. Captured within this movie is an essence of the unreal – the shots seem almost too artistically crafted, as if each element of this art-house film were not simply put together but grew that way organically. A harmonious blend ensues, one that delineates a chasm of symbology: the boyish charm of a quiet and naïve yet physically elite boxer whose talents have trapped him inside the society of money, flashing lights, and fame.
With impeccable storytelling and faultless craftsmanship, the director’s deft touch guides this storyline to its inevitable melancholic (anti) climax. In response to Dylan’s rhetorical question, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”, we can safely say it was not Olli Mäki. The history books will tell that he lost the fight in Helsinki by technical knockout and Davey Moore retained his title. But just as this film is not a materialisation of its drawbacks on paper, it is only The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki that lets one understand that Mäki won something much greater that day: his happiness. And while this is another boxing movie in one respect, it has extracted that simplistic romanticism that exists within the genre; between the blood and the sweat Kuosmanen has discovered the heart, and he has set up his cameras that we may observe its beating.
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is released nationwide on 21st April 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki here: