Review: Ladies of Steel
by Marta Bałaga
- Pamela Tola delivers the ultimate woman-pleaser, proving that sometimes, 70-year-old girls just want to have fun
One of the Nordic Light titles at this year’s Göteborg Film Festival, Pamela Tola’s second feature, Ladies of Steel [+see also:
interview: Pamela Tola
film profile], actually carries some weight with its story of three elderly sisters hitting the road as soon as one of them, Inkeri (Leena Uotila), realises she might have hit her annoying husband a bit too hard with a pancake pan. Not that it’s always evenly distributed, with the tone going from a very broad, body-fluids-welcome kind of comedy to melancholic musings on love’s labour’s lost, basically. But, damn, it’s funny sometimes.
A slightly demented relative of all the Bad Moms and Rough Nights, its mischievous side might revel in the grannies-gone-bad routine, but there is way too much heart, and pain, to just write this film off as pleasantly nasty. Tola, an acclaimed Finnish actress in her own right, gifts the central trio – especially Uotila and Seela Sella, cast as a merry serial harasser – with scenes to play with and one-liners to kill for. Although that last comment might actually be uncalled for, given the circumstances.
It’s very telling that every time a supporting player arrives on the scene, forcing them to share the spotlight and overacting like there’s no tomorrow, or at least not for too long, the party dies down. This is also because while the ladies seem to perfectly understand its dramedy-ish formula, others do tend to struggle sometimes, choking as soon as somebody’s crotch gets a mention.
With Inkeri’s glorious feminist-icon past introduced and then swiftly forgotten, there are some threads that strike as unfinished – especially as you don’t need to picture her as some mysterious “free girl” to share her pangs of regret. And that’s not to mention that a whole blistering article could be devoted to scenes that, if played out by male protagonists, would now provoke outrage instead of triumphant fist-pumping, as no 20-year-old’s bottom is safe where Sella’s Raili is heading, God bless her. But luckily, the runaways themselves are just a delight, counting their lumps and drinking their wine, listing their friends’ funerals and saving all the good candy for friends, not grandchildren. And as they keep driving on, darker memories begin to surface as well, relating to the shrugged-off abuse and missed chances in life – predictably blamed on others.
“I need to understand what has happened to me,” says Inkeri, suddenly faced with everything she had never intended to be facing again, and yet somehow this film is not about the past, but the future. A bright one, too, as even at 70 years of age, one can apparently still get properly wasted to wistful Russian songs in a bar and pick up a shapely hitchhiker on the way out. Kippis to that.
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