Review: 'Open Up to Me' Has Heart and a Little Fire, But No Bite

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 19, 2021

This Finnish drama by writer-director Simo Halinen is almost over-stuffed with sexually uptight, anxious characters who act out in a variety of ill-considered, and potentially disastrous, ways.

At the heart of the tumult is Maarit (Leea Klemola), a social worker whose professional prospects have sharply dwindled in the wake of a major life transition. Just coming out of therapy herself, Maarit can't resist a little role-play when a sudden turn of events leaves her in charge of a psychotherapist's office while its tenant is away dealing with a family emergency. When the distressed, and very handsome, Sami (Peter Franzn) happens into the office just as Maarit has dressed up in the psychotherapist's things, she decides to bluff her way through the encounter and counsels him about his unhappy marriage to Julia (Ria Kataja), whom Sami describes as a control freak.

Soon enough, Maarit comes clean to Sami, but her therapeutic influence on him has just started - and it's not just a matter of counseling: They end up embroiled in an affair that's uplifting for them both. But what price are they going to have to pay?

Complicating matters is a tragedy back in the town where Maarit used to live, before her own marriage collapsed. She's implicated in a teen's suicide by town gossip and suspicious cops; suffice it to say that Maarit is walking on thin ice, not only because of her affair with Sami, but also because a confused teen named Teo (Alex Anton), a student of Sami's, has taken an interest in her and, helpful soul that she is, Maarit can't help but want to advise and encourage him. Meantime, however, she can't break through the wall of hurt and confusion that's standing between her and her own teenage daughter, Pinja (Emmi Nivala).

If this were a comedy, it would be worthy of Pedro Almodivar. As a drama, "Open Up To Me" treads carefully, with Halinen making deliberate (if not always entirely successful) choices to steer away from cliches and predictable outcomes. This is a raw, sometimes tense take on the risks of connecting, trusting, and venturing beyond social norms. Even so, there's something diagrammatical and too neatly trimmed about this film as it charts the courses of its numerous characters and details the effects they have on one another's' lives. It's got heart, yes, and a little fire, but no real intensity or bite; instead, this movie's wildest impulses feel reigned in and shrink-wrapped.

"Open Up To Me" is available January 19, 2021 on DVD from Corinth Films



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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.