19 October 2010 | random_avenger
Ground Under Sea
Lenka Hellstedt is a Finnish female director probably best known for her feature film debut Me and Morrison (2001), the second part of the controversially sexual Levottomat trilogy. Her second feature film Overseas and Under Your Skin (or literally "Ground Under Sea") is an adaptation of a novel by Riikka Ala-Harja and deals with many emotions people often encounter when growing up and starting their lives on their own.
The protagonist of the story is Ida Dahl (Amira Khalifa), a young woman of African heritage who has been adopted and brought up by an idealistic woman named Kati (Marja Packalén) in an average small Finnish town. After recovering from years of depression, Ida feels suffocated by Kati's overbearing behaviour and longs to get out of her usual routines. Quickly she comes up with the idea of moving to Berlin to spread her wings and get to really know herself. There she befriends a German girl named Anita (Annika Ernst) who is also connected to Kati's past as left-wing feminist activist. However, the aging Kati has a serious secret and does not want to let go of her daughter.
As a dramedy, the film leans more towards drama, while the comedy is often based on Ida's exaggeratedly Finnish behaviour among the spontaneous Central Europeans: she initially rejects acts of kindness, feels uncomfortable in company and even suspects Anita might be a lesbian for being so nice to her. At the same time she is anxious to find a boyfriend and makes very awkward passes at a local masseur Deniz (Ismail Sahin). In a realist drama her behaviour could seem unfitting for someone of her age but provides decent comic relief in a lighter tale like this one. Ida's development towards a more open attitude is also related to the major theme of overcoming feelings of dependency, be it by leaving or letting go of somebody – by beginning or ending one's life as an individual among others.
The subplots about Ida's gay friend Ville (Matti Ristinen) seeking a relationship in their tiny hometown and the marital crisis of Kati's colleague Pipsa (Leena Uotila) don't feel as interesting as the main storyline, but I guess that's why they are only subplots in the first place. They do add their own little flavour to the whole though and are connected to the same themes with the Ida and Kati relationship. I liked the contradicting nature of Kati's demands for Ida; on one hand she tells her daughter to do something with her life but at the same time doesn't really want to lose her own significance to Ida. I'm sure those feelings are something almost any parent will go through when their children are growing up.
Amira Khalifa fits well in the role of the inexperienced Ida, but the redheaded Annika Ernst frequently steals the show with her natural perky charm and adorable appearance. In addition, I enjoyed the "la la la" compositions in the score by Anna-Mari Kähärä; suitably, their childlike atmosphere can also be linked to the central theme of growing up. Even though the final scenes' emotional effect may not be as powerful as in some "serious" dramas, the tone remains in good balance with the earlier atmosphere. To sum up, I enjoyed the movie and wouldn't mind seeing more drama-comedies like this one being produced in Finland.