Sonja is a tale of unrequited love and adolescent bumbling depicted with typical Finnish tendencies towards the grand, dramatic and baroque; that is to say, none. A joke: “How can you tell when you’ve met an outgoing Finn? He stares at your shoes.” I note this because the director, Kirsi Liimatainen, is a Finn, and this highly personal movie is typically devoid of the teary-eyed, blouse-rending that might infect another teen drama about relationships. My pal. Manicella. saw Kaurismäki’s Man Without a Past, and I had to explain to her that the pronounced lack of affect was not a comedic affectation, but indeed an accurate portrayal of the culture.
Set in Berlin, the heroine adores her best friend, but considers her boyfriend with ambivalence. “You should be nicer to him,” her mother scolds. Liimatainen reminds me a bit of Fassbinder with her awareness of color and pattern in interior scenes. High drama is restricted to voices raised – between mother and daughter, of course. The ostensible issue – whether or not Sonja is a lesbian – is a non-issue, and the resulting document is a subtle and calm depiction of typical developmental turmoil concerning relationships and appropriate object choice, albeit one that might be charitably described as "languid." At moments of intense crisis, the heroine walks into water. I found myself frequently checking the time remaining during the feature. Sonja might be appropriate accompaniment for a foot soak.