2019 Scandinavian Film Festival: One Last Deal Review

 
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The 2019 Scandinavian Film Festival is in full swing. The festival brings numerous award-winning films from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland to Australia over July and August. A film from Finland featuring in the festival is One Last Deal by Golden Globe nominated director Klaus Härö.

One Last Deal is a somewhat miserable tale of elderly art dealer Olavi (Heikki Nousiainen) who is desperately trying to make one final sale to save his art business. When looking through a gallery for works to purchase, Olavi’s eyes fall on a portrait of an unknown man by an unknown artist. Olavi’s instincts tell him that there is something special about this painting and he sets to work to discover who the artist is before the upcoming auction for the piece. 

Having devoted his life to his shop buying and reselling artworks, Olavi lives alone and is estranged from his daughter (Pirjo Lonka) and her son, Otto (Amos Brotherus). But when Otto struggles to find a job, he turns up at his grandfather’s shop and convinces him to let him help out. Together, they spend hours studying art catalogues until they begin to gather evidence that the painting could be by renowned Russian artist Ilya Repin and worth over 100,000 euros.

The story is fairly slow paced as the quiet characters spend their time flipping through books or gazing at art in dark rooms, but is surprisingly gripping and suspenseful as the characters get closer to solving the mystery. Viewers with an inquisitive nature who can’t bear loose ends to a story will be enthralled. The 95 minute film wraps everything up succinctly and satisfyingly, even if the final scene feels like one we’ve seen a thousand times in its desperation to reach a happy ending. 

The story twists as more people begin to realise the value of the artwork and the tale becomes one of power and manipulation. The joy of seeing Olavi be proven correct about the origin of the painting is dulled by the ensuing conniving and the miserable side of the film comes to the fore. The attempt at a neat and cheery ending where all conflict is resolved is nice but unrealistic. Not all wounds can be healed with a few nice words and this film would have been a more thoughtful piece if Härö had explored the everlasting consequences of fractured relationships.

Nousiainen nevertheless creates a convincing character in Olavi, who is recognisable as a driven and dedicated man fascinated by art, who is struggling to keep up with the modernisation of society. The character of Otto brings the film firmly into modern times with his comedic query of why his grandfather doesn’t just Google the mystery painting and with a scene teaching Olavi how to use email.

One Last Deal is pleasant and interesting enough to watch but leaves nothing to ponder. It is a watch-and-move-on kind of film that obscures the heartbreak, hardship and sadness it contains so viewers are lulled into contentment.

The Scandinavian Film Festival is presented by Palace Cinemas and runs from July 9 to August 7. Screening times for One Last Deal can be viewed here