By Muniyra Douglas
Finnish film Stupid Young Heart made its World Premiere at TIFF this year to an overflowing theatre audience. Directed by Selma Vilhunen, the film features two teenage outcasts grappling with peer pressure, unsettling home life and their journey into unexpected parenthood. Vilhunen is a director and writer whose short film “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?” was nominated for an Oscar in 2012.
Stupid Young Heart is a traditional coming of age story set on the backdrop of political rebellion. There are hints of subtle racism and disdain for immigrants, namely Somali, who are directly and indirectly blamed for the unstable job market and source of resentment for many of the older characters. The young couple is torn between two worlds, Lenni who wants a sense of belonging is convinced into spreading anti-immigration propaganda and petty criminal activity.
© TIFF Trailers | YouTube
The film follows the downward spiral of Lenni as he slowly loses control of himself. Desperate to exert his masculinity Lenni channels his inner transgressions onto those around him. Vilhunen explores the marginalized teenaged years, and those trapped in the wings of an Alt-Right resurgent group. The characters are unable to enjoy their youth, which should be a carefree time but instead they must become more responsible than their own parents.
Vilhunen explores the cycle of neglect and rejection within society. Interestingly, both Lenni and Kira are shown and discussed as coming from a single mother household. Neither character has their father figure in the picture, and this is also a source of their desire to feel loved. Lenni struggles into manhood and finds an attachment to Janne, meanwhile Kira is in desperate need for male attention. Their home life vastly differs – Lenni is the only child, Kira is the eldest of several boys.
The film provides the glimpse into a backstory for many of the traditionally racist figures – instead of simply labelling the characters as such, the director shows the roots of the problem. The message is that it stems less from unexplained stereotypes, and instead more from fear of alienation, financial instability and jealousy. An all too familiar situation during this climate of travel bans and limited immigration policies. On the surface Young Stupid Heart is a simple story about two young teens coping with unexpected parenthood. But beneath this it navigates conversations of cultural identity, racism, marginalization, alt-right politics, and so much more than we expected.
*Editor’s note: Stupid Young Heart was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18.