SUN, sand, blue ocean and beautiful people. For those of us gearing up for winter in colder climates and less glamourous surroundings, it can be soothing escapism to dream of upping sticks and moving to a place such as Miami.
But Miami, a film by Zaida Bergroth, is not based in this Florida city. Instead it heads to the antithesis of the sunshine state and lands in the snowy barrenness of rural Finland. This is where we find dreamer Angela (Krista Kosonen), a dancer for a touring group called the Amazing Angels.
One night after performing at a show, Angela is saved from a tussle with a thuggish man by an unfamiliar and reticent young woman named Anna (Sonja Kuittinen). After letting Angela stay the night at her home, Anna reveals that her back-alley rescue was no coincidence – they are estranged half-sisters.
This revelation produces one of the most quietly powerful scenes of the year, rivalling the lofty standards set in films such as Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper and David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. It shows Angela silently flicking through an old scrapbook while Anna nervously peers around a door frame. It is a spellbinding scene and a marker for the captivating performances to come from both Kosonen and Kuittinen.
Once Angela gets over her initial hesitancy, the reunited sisters set off on a bonding road trip as Anna is convinced to join her sister on stage. We then observe the endearing chemistry shared between Kosonen and Kuittinen, which flourishes in the warmth and intimacy of their car journey.
When the two pull into an empty petrol station, they even have time to share a Footloose moment as Angela teaches her younger sister how to dance for an audience. I dare you not to smile.
‘Imagine this is a club in Miami,’ says Angela to her nervy sister before their first performance together – Angela exuding confidence with her furry hats and big earrings. Anna listens and the dancing soon helps to unlock a hidden confidence within the young woman. The dancing even helps foster a daring new lease of life for Anna that comes in use when a hefty debt begins to catch up with Angela.
The sisters – both refreshingly complex lead female characters – experience inner-journeys on their road-trip. Angela is the more difficult of the two to pin down. Despite her free-spiritedness, she falls back on her religious faith, routinely praying before her bed for the night in front of a slightly puzzled Anna.
This clinging to faith is mostly rooted in Angela’s damaged childhood. These scars occasionally rear themselves and sometimes involve resentment towards Anna who benefited from their father’s love and attention through childhood. Angela was virtually orphaned.
Despite this, there is a resilience to Angela’s dreamer spirit, underpinned by a gentle cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dream Baby Dream which is threaded through the film.
Anna, on the other hand, is undergoing a transformation of her own while trying to contend with her sister’s unpredictability. As an ex-boyfriend of Angela’s warns, being around her is like being on cocaine and Anna must be wary of the come down. Tellingly, when Anna lets her big sister out of her sight there are devastating consequences.
This event causes a jolting road-block which leads Miami to quickly shift gears into a riveting thriller. The sisters suddenly find themselves in fatal danger and are forced to plot an unlikely escape. Their chosen destination? The sun and ssfety of Miami.
This is an enchanting piece of storytelling from Bergroth aided by two faultless central performances. As a result, Miami can be added to the growing list of impressive Nordic narratives.
UK audiences will surely lap it up once it arrives in cinemas. Sunshine or no sunshine.