by David-Elijah Nahmod
Welcome to Queerly Digital, a regular column about LGBT films on DVD/Blu Ray and streaming platforms.
Director Mikko Makela establishes himself as a major talent with this, his debut film. “A Moment In The Reeds” is a bittersweet, character-driven romantic drama about two lonely souls who meet and connect all too briefly. The film was shot in the countryside of Finland, a nation with some of the most progressive LGBT equality laws in the world.
As the story opens Leevi (Janne Puustinen) is joining his father, from whom he’s been estranged for several years, at an isolated cabin which they own. Leevi is going to help his dad (Mika Melender) renovate the cabin so that it can be sold. Both are trying to be civil, even as the tension between them boils just beneath the surface–Leevi blames his dad for his late mother leaving the family and dad is unable to accept the fact that his only child is gay.
Tareq (Boodi Kabbani) is a Syrian emigre who is hired to help out with the renovations. When Dad is called away on business, Leevi and Tareq begin talking, sharing their innermost thoughts with each other. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to make love.
The scenes between Leevi and Tareq comprise the bulk of the film. As they speak, their eyes connect. Their voices are quiet and there’s no background music. There’s an intimacy to these scenes that’s almost embarrassing — it sometimes feels as though the viewer is eavesdropping on these very private conversations.
They talk about the possibility of having a relationship, but the cards are stacked against them. Leevi has no intention of leaving Paris, where he’s been living, and Tareq is determined to make a life for himself in his adopted country. Tareq expresses concern when his conservative family, whom he has not come out to, tells him that they may be joining him in Finland.
“I wanted to make a Queer romance for the Finnish LGBT community,” auteur Makela said in an interview, “I wanted to look at what it’s like to be a minority in Finland. There was a time when a lot of refugees were coming into the country — we battled for the soul of our country to see whether or not we’d be a tolerant society.”
Makela noted that the actors were given a great deal of freedom in creating their characters.
“We worked from a detailed outline,” he said. “A lot of the dialogue was improvised. I asked the actors to use their own ideas for the scenes, but I gave them the backstory. Boodi Kabbani was able to use his own lived experience — his family does not know about the film. He was trying to represent as many experiences as possible, so he brought in the experiences of his friends as well. He really knows that character.”
Kabbani does a masterful job in conveying the whirlwind of emotions that Tareq is feeling. He’s a gay man living a double life. He comes from a society that will not accept him, and, though he loves his family and wants them to be safe from the wars which ravage their homeland, he’s afraid that if they move to Finland he’ll be forced to retreat back into the closet.
Puustinen offers equally fine work as Leevi, a young man who would probably like to repair the relationship between himself and his father. But too much damage has been done. Leevi falls hard for Tareq, and hopes that they can find a way to be together permanently. He is unable to see how impossible this is, especially after his father finds out about what has been going on between them. But for a brief moment, Leevi and Tareq do find a respite from their frustrations.
“A Moment In The Reeds” is a lovely film which beautifully illustrates the need people have to connect with each other. The film reminds us that we don’t always need big budgets and CGI to tell a good story. Sometimes it’s enough to just focus the camera on good actors and let them speak well written lines. Hopefully we’ll see more from these actors, and from their director, in the future.
Parts of “A Moment In The Reeds” are in Finnish, with English subtitles, though the scenes between Leevi and Tareq are in English, the language which the two characters share.
In addition to DVD, “A Moment In The Reeds” is available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.