Review: Finn

Finn is about a nine-year-old boy, played by Mels van der Hoeven, who lives in a small town with his father (Dan Schuurmans). One day Finn notices someone has moved into the abandoned farmhouse that he passes as he goes to and from school. He is drawn there by a wonderful sound he’s never heard before: a violin playing. He starts to take lessons with the old player (Jan Decleir), and skipping soccer practice. His father discovers this and forbids him. As the story moves on it becomes clear that his father’s concern is not just about Finn fitting in. All this time Finn wants: to know more about his mother, to fix their relationship, his father to open up, and to know what’s so bad about the violin anyway.

It would be easy to watch the trailer, or read other online synopses and dismiss Finn as being just another run-of-the-mill family dramedy. You may be lead to believe that it’ll be cutesy and geared mostly for children, however, one of the best things about it is that it respects all its potential audience members, and would likely entertain them in equal measure. For while Finn definitely seeks to speak to both children and parents it portrays a world that can draw both in.

The world of the story is seen mostly through Finn’s eyes, and though he’s known his pains (like never knowing his mother) it is a still a world that most children have experienced at one time or another: a world of magical realism. Finn openly wonders about the connections between music and magic, the ability to induce visions; in short believes in the unseen world and is not shy to talk about it. Resistance is met when he does share it though. He estranges his best friend and confounds his father, to say the least. So there is a balance struck.

Finn (2013, Attraction Distribution)

This balance allows for the creation of a bittersweet, sensitive narrative and as events unfold and revelations are made joys and sorrows walk hand-in-hand. The gorgeous nature of this film is precisely that the journey it takes you upon ebbs and flows. With each narrative progression truths are being revealed and though the truth invariably introduces new pains (pains both Finn and his father seek to avoid) it is ultimately freeing and allows them to move on with their life.

The journey taken here is most definitely a heart-rending one. It’s a film that could easily rest on the laurels of its mellifluous orchestrations, and captivating pastoral scenes of the low country but combines that with a universal, unpretentious and moving story. Due to the fact these things play off of one another the film is allowed to true resonance and cannot be dismissed as nice, cute or quaint, but rather a wholly realized intimate family portrait that should be shared not only at the holidays, but by families the world over.

This is a film populated by deceptively hard characters to play: Finn, has to be simultaneously precocious in that he seeks greater meanings in life and his activities, but naive enough to believe in the improbable and even impossible. The deft scripting assists in that regard but van der Hoeven is often the one, as the film’s namesake, carrying the scenes, who needs to connect with the audience and does. Shuurmans has to be simultaneously quiet definitively hurt and guarded. He has to be brusque with his son without ever alienating the audience and he succeeds in spades because as bad as the arguments get it’s always clear he is torn, has his reasons, but believes he’s doing right by his son.

The film flows with such ease that it washes over you like a dream, which is fitting. This is a factor that should also make this film one that’s conducive to revisiting. Considering that this film is repped by Attraction Distribution, who have had a good track record lately of getting European produced family fare seen in both Canada and the US, prospects of the audience for this film widening are quite good. This is most definitely a film worth finding. This kind of beauteous, lyrical family drama has nearly been the exclusive purview of Benelux in recent years. It is a moving, sincere film ought to be discovered, and one of the best of the year to date.