By KJ Doughton | June 3, 2010

It’s a perfect storm of misfortune for the Kura family. Patriarch Mikko (Pertti Sveholm) is plagued with uncontrollable tremors. His hands shiver and twitch. He can’t remember things. His mind and body are wasting away, and he knows it. 

Mikko is diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease. It will soon leave him demented, then dead. To make matters worse, Mikko’s disease is hereditary, a fact that he dare not disclose to his adult son and adolescent daughter. Could the illness resurface in these previous offspring?

“Twisted Roots” chronicles the seemingly insurmountable odds faced by a family putting out too many fires at once. Piled on top of Mikko’s eroding health, wife Mirjami (Milka Ahlroth) fends off the hovering specter of poverty. Teenaged daughter Pihla (Emma Louhivori) dives into bittersweet adolescence, discovering love, lust, and a yearning to leave the family nest. 

Seemingly immune from fear and despair is Lumi (Silva Robbins), the family’s eight-year-old, adopted daughter. Using imagination to escape the very real tensions looming around her, Lumi yearns to explore her Chinese heritage. Can she tunnel through a bedroom wall and reach, as she’s been told, “all the way to China?” Exuding imagination and curiosity, she’s the family’s small voice of revitalizing hope.

“Twisted Roots” serves of a palpable plate of dread. In fact, the potential ruin facing the Kuras is alarmingly real. How does a man in Mikko’s shoes find the will to live? How does a wife move forward when the bank threatens to foreclose on their home? Will an aging son consider taking over the family business, at the request of a dying father, even as he knows in his heart it’s a dead-end road? Does Pihla break away from her parents, or remain at their side during this time of need?     

“Twisted Roots” sounds grim. Why watch it?

One reason might be the amazing, gorgeous cinematography of Rauno Ronkainen, who makes footprints in the snow appear as unforgettable works of art. The film also conveys a Finnish sense of water-as-healing. Phila huddles naked with friends in a commune’s steaming Jacuzzi to endure life’s bitter moments. Mirjama escapes from her worries though cold dips in an icy nearby lake.  Apparently, the Fins like their water at extreme ends of the continuum.

Some filmgoers enjoy the passive, reliable cushion fluffed up by Shrek, a Persian prince, or high society girls enjoying sex in the city. You go, you leave, you forget. It’s safe. Others love the vicarious emotional power of a well-told tale, however painful, horrific, or sad. “Revolutionary Road.” “City of God.” “El Norte.” These aren’t happy stories, but they resonate. “Twisted Roots” is like that, its stressful sting strangely invigorating.

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  1. Ben V. says:

    I just saw all these reviews by KJ Doughton and was wondering if it was a friend of mine from Grade School….

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