Kotia päin (Homebound). 1989. Finland. Directed by Ilkka Järvi-Laturi. Screenplay by Järvi-Laturi, Annina Enckell, Outi Nyytäjä. With Ilkka Koivula, Jonna Järnefelt, Leena Suomu. In Finnish; English subtitles. 35mm. 93 min.
A promising student named Mika (Ilkka Koivula) manages to escape his drab hometown of Oulu, a small industrial city in the north of Finland, so that he can study engineering in Helsinki. Meanwhile his widowed mother Elli (Leena Suomu) takes to marrying a violent ex-con named Kurkela (Risto Tuorila), whose abuse of Elli begins to beckon Mika back to Oulu. What results is a portrait of small-town life in Finland with clear Oedipal undertones, blending the genres of kitchen sink realism, coming-of-age drama and gritty crime thriller.
As with its followup City Unplugged, Kotia päin draws its energy from having been shot on location, and from a supporting ensemble of nonprofessional actors playing characters whose lives resemble their own. While the film’s depictions of misanthropy, alcoholism and domestic abuse are grimy and unsparing, Kotia päin announced the emergence of an important new voice in European cinema, as evidenced by the film’s inclusion in the 1990 edition of New Directors New Films. For his blistering debut, Järvi-Laturi won that year’s Nordic Film Prize for best Scandinavian Film of the Year, as well as Finland’s prestigious Jussi Award for Best Screenplay; cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos would go on to shoot many major Finnish titles, including 2022’s notorious sniper thriller Sisu.