Romance movies have charmed us for decades, and A Moment in the Reeds, directed and written by Finnish-Estonian filmmaker Mikko Makela, is no exception. This 2017 LGBT coming-of-age movie revolves around the story of Leevi, a Finnish student whose return to the Finnish countryside reluctantly forces him to confront his relationship with his estranged and conservative father. When fellow Estonian-student Tareq shows up and develops an intimate relationship with Leevi, however, it sparks an unlikely but tender love affair that drives the movie to its fateful conclusion.
At its core, A Moment in the Reeds is a poignant, heart-wrenching story of two individuals attempting to love each other in a hostile environment. One of the few LGBT-themed movies to be released in Finland in recent years, it is a story of acceptance, courage and resilience against a backdrop of homophobia and traditional values. The movie struck a chord with viewers, becoming one of the most successful Finnish films of all time.
Although Leevi and Tareq’s relationship forms the heart of the movie, critics agree that what makes A Moment in the Reeds particularly powerful is its attention to detail. From its rich visuals of the Finnish countryside to its evocative soundtrack, this movie is full of textures and emotions that offer glimpses into the beauty and complexities of LGBT romance. For example, the music and sound design help to evoke a deeply personal atmosphere, in which the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings are laid bare. Moreover, the art direction and cinematography capture the warm hues of an idyllic summer in the Finnish jungle, helping to amplify the nuances of the story.
Beyond its strong technical elements, many praise the performances of its two leads. First-time actors Luca Isko and Janne Puustinen bring depth and charm to their roles, creating sympathetic and passionate portrayals. As Leevi, Isko is particularly impressive as he conveys an inner conflict between his obligations to his family and his growing love for Tareq. Similarly, Puustinen is at his best during scenes which depict the subtle and tender moments between the two men, while creating a palpable tension between their differences in culture, sexuality and social backgrounds.
Propelled by a sensitive script and thoughtful character interactions, A Moment in the Reeds is a mesmerizing, intimate portrait of young love in the modern era. Rather than being heavy-handed with its themes, the movie conveys a sense of hope and perseverance despite being set against a backdrop of discrimination. Moreover, it is an important milestone for the LGBT cinematic landscape, proving that heart-warming storylines are achievable even in conservative countries.
The Perils of Social Exclusion
At its core, A Moment in the Reeds is a subtle exploration of the difficulties of being a member of the LGBT community in a conservative, homophobic society. Whilst the story follows a typical romantic narrative, it also highlights the way in which Leevi and Tareq’s relationship is restricted by the strict norms of their social circles. In one scene, for example, Leevi is sadly recounting stories of how his peers taunt him due to his sexuality. Leevi’s father, too, is not supportive, providing a potent reminder of the consequences of falling in love with someone of the same gender.
In addition to this, the movie touches on broader themes of cultural identity, transgression and the individual’s struggle for recognition. This is evident in the somewhat strained relationship between Leevi and his father, whose disapproval of his son’s relationship illuminates the generational gap between them. Moreover, the notion of transgression is also present in Leevi’s ambivalence about his connection to Finnish culture, as well as the power dynamics between the two nations. Ultimately, it is a story of overcoming prejudice, and the journey of self-acceptance.
Such an engaging narrative relies on a nuanced yet powerful exploration of the themes of social exclusion, a feat which Makela achieves with a light, enchanting touch. Whether it’s a moment of quiet understanding between Leevi and Tareq, or a brief exchange between father and son, each scene is a reflection of a society that has grown to accept differences but not without prejudice.
By mixing an inspiring love story with social-commentary, A Moment in the Reeds is a powerful reminder that love does not have an age limit or expiration date. It also demonstrates how much progress has been made in terms of acceptance for the LGBT community—something that can only be celebrated.
Breaking Down Barriers in Cinema
The success of A Moment in the Reeds has also made it a ‘barrier breaker’ in the cinematic world. In a country where LGBT identities are often hidden and denied, the movie’s success has been hailed as a major victory, both for the equality movement and for the recognition of LGBT perspectives on screen. In many ways, it has opened up the discussion around LGBT topics and helped to normalise them.
This success has also been credited to Makela, who proudly proclaimed that he wanted to ‘bring a positive on-screen story about a gay couple for the first time ever.’ Indeed, the bravery and determination that Makela has shown in bringing his story to the big screen is commendable. His success has provided a sliver of much-needed hope in a world that still denies the rights of the LGBT community.
In addition, A Moment in the reeds has been recognized by various award ceremonies and critics, who have commended its excellent performance, cinematography and soundtrack. However, its real success comes from its ability to tell a captivating story through characters who transcend stereotypes and cultural cliches. By doing this, Makela has achieved something remarkable in championing acceptance and showing that love can exist amidst even the darkest of times.
Sparking Debate and Supporting Movements
The success of A Moment in the Reeds has also seen a surge in interest in social and political movements in a bid to advocate for LGBT rights. These campaigns, such as Siksi LGBT+ Rights in Finland, aim to increase visibility and create awareness of the struggles faced by the LGBT community in a bid to secure safer and more equal environments.
Furthermore, A Moment in the Reeds has also played a huge role in normalizing LGBT relationships and sparking positive debates about the experiences and challenges faced by the LGBT community. This newfound discussion has solidified A Moment in the Reeds as a pivotal film in Finnish cinema, as it serves as a reminder of how important it is to explore the complexities of relationships in an attempt to create a more open and equal society.
The Impact of A Moment in the Reeds
A Moment in the Reeds has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the cinematic world, pushing forward a narrative of hope and perseverance. In a world where the LGBT community faces wide-spread discrimination, it is stories such as these which act as a call to arms, and bring both a sense of belonging and acceptance to LGBT people around the world.
Moreover, in spite of its success, A Moment in the Reeds is still fighting an uphill battle, as it competes against both commercial big-budget films and cookie-cutter storylines. Despite this though, its impact can be felt in the diverse discussions that it has sparked, the various movements it has supported, and the larger conversation it has forced the world to have about the LGBT community.
The Future of LGBT Cinema
Within the last decade, the cinematic landscape for LGBT stories has expanded substantially. For example, we have seen a surge in the number of independent projects spearheaded by female, trans and non-binary directors, with films such as Disobedience, Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name opening up conversations around gender, sexuality and identity.
Despite this progress though, there is still a long way to go in terms of representation in mainstream cinema. As a result, the success of A Moment in the Reeds has opened up a space for smaller, LGBT-related films to be made and distributed in countries like Finland. This convention-breaking piece of cinema is, therefore, an example of how we can break down barriers of homophobia, transphobia and exclusion, while encouraging accurate, sympathetic and entertaining stories to be told.
The Survivors of Finnland
The success of A Moment in the Reeds also serves to highlight the survivors of the Finnish LGBT community, many of whom have had to personally experience prejudice, discrimination and exclusion on a everyday basis. Their story is a crucial reminder of why the work of Makela and others is so important, as it is only through increased visibility and the accurate representation of LGBT characters in films such as A Moment in the Reeds that we can fight for a better future.
One example of such a survivor is Siru Airistola, a Finland-born artist and activist who has used her own experiences of homophobia to shape the way she creates art. Much like Makela’s film, Airistola’s works have become a powerful platform for positive LGBT stories and conversations, proving that even the most difficult topics can be discussed in a meaningful, educated and sensitive manner.
Ultimately, A Moment in the Reeds serves as a much-needed reminder that cinema can, and should, be a tool for progress. It has exposed audiences to stories from a perspective that has been traditionally sidelined and silenced, highlighting the beauty and resilience of the LGBT community around the world.
Uniting a Diverse Audience
The overall success of A Moment in the Reeds has made it globally renowned, uniting both LGBT and mainstream audiences alike. In fact, its global presence—spanning both Europe and North America—has enabled countless young viewers to connect with issues of sexuality, identity and family without judgement; something that many of these viewers rarely experience in everyday life.
Furthermore, A Moment in the Reeds has also found legions of fans in the LGBT community, many of whom recognise and appreciate the struggles, hopes and dreams of characters such as Leevi and Tareq. Indeed, the reactions of viewers around the world to this movie are a testament to its importance, as it reaffirms that LGBT stories should be heard and celebrated.
It has also given LGBT people a chance to feel seen, heard and represented. Through this, it has inspired many, particularly young people, to be proud of who they are. And, at a time when discrimination is still rampant and the battle for equality is ongoing, this kind of visibility and understanding are invaluable.