It’s 9:30 p.m. local time when I reach Pöysti at her home in Helsinki, but she’s unfailingly cheerful. That’s even more impressive given her strenuous schedule—she’s just touched down from Sweden, where she often works (she speaks four languages), and will soon head off to Los Angeles, followed by New York for the film’s November 17 US opening, before continuing the promotional tour in Japan in December.
And at festivals from England to Mexico, France, and Germany, she’s witnessed the film work its charm. “People are very, very touched by it—they thank us for giving them hope,” she says. “It speaks to everyone, though it’s a very Finnish story. People are having a hard time in the world, and it’s kind of what we need right now.”
“It’s a romantic comedy, but not the sugary kind—it’s more salt than sugar.” That’s how actor Alma Pöysti characterizes Fallen Leaves, the latest feature (his 19th) from legendary Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki.
Descended from a family of actors and directors, Pöysti has worked in Scandinavian theater and film for the past two decades; in 2021 she won Finland’s top film prize for best actress for her role as Moomins creator Tove Jansson. She spoke with Vogue about profound Finnish silences; abiding the director’s request for no rehearsing and doing only one take per scene; and whether the Finland seen in the movie bears any resemblance to the actual place.
Cheekily referred to as the fourth entry in Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy, Fallen Leaves is a gentle, bittersweet comedy centered on two lonely Helsinki souls, Ansa and Holappa (Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen). Between working menial jobs, they manage to find each other and lose touch several times over the film’s scant 81 minutes. It may sound slight, but the film encompasses nothing less than the devastation of war, the ruthlessness of capitalism, and the isolation of contemporary life—yet it still manages to warm audiences’ hearts. And it’s left critics swooning since its Cannes premiere earlier this year, where it won the jury prize, and is now eyeing the Oscars as Finland’s submission for international feature.