Finnish thriller about a man who will do anything for love, including watching James Cameron’s epic
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic is one of the rarest things you can find in a movie: something genuinely unique. That starts with the film’s star, Petri Poikolainen, who in real life is blind due to his multiple sclerosis. He’s in nearly every frame of the movie and is a captivating screen presence. His expressive face carries viewers through the ups and downs of daily life for Jaakko, which includes medical alerts, reminders to take medication, updates regarding his bank accounts and gaming accounts, phone calls from his parents and girlfriend.
As Jaakko’s medical situation worsens he has two outlets: his girlfriend Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala) and movies. Jaakko has a particular affinity for the works of John Carpenter and James Cameron, with one notable exception. The movie gets a lot of mileage from Jaakko riffing on movies and working references into his daily life, particularly when he playfully ribs his nurse by calling her Annie Wilkes and Nurse Ratched. There’s a joy in Jaakko’s voice when he’s chatting about movies that will be familiar to cinephiles of all stripes.
Writer-director Teemu Nikki walks a tight rope with his story by quickly establishing the day-to-day routine of Jaakko’s life and letting viewers sit in the isolation with him. The camera is almost always right on Jaakko’s face and everything around him is a blur. It’s bound to make some viewers claustrophobic and that’s the point. It’s aesthetic choice similar to what Julian Schnabel deploys in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and it not only creates an indelible experience for viewers; it feels like the only choice to properly tell this story and honor Jaakko’s (and Poikolainen’s) circumstances.
Things are going as well as they can for Jaakko until a one-two punch of events disrupts his routine. He wins big on the daily lottery and Sirpa shares a bit of bad news with him. There are some things people in relationships must deal with and some things cinephiles must deal with. For Jaakko, on this particular day, that reckoning is Titanic. So, with a still-in-its-wrapper DVD of the movie in hand, Jaakko sets out in his wheelchair to go see Sirpa.
It’s a precarious trip as Jaakko doesn’t have time to coordinate the usual assistance he needs, instead he’s determined to rely on the kindness of strangers to help him. Of course, that quickly goes sideways and Jaakko’s finds himself…well, somewhere he has no idea how to navigate with mysterious people demanding he hand over his lottery winnings.
Nikki and Poikolainen are perfectly in sync as storyteller and performer. They balance humor and thrills for a concoction that hits familiar notes but in a way you likely haven’t seen before. It makes for a riveting experience that equally adept at making its audience squirm uncomfortably as often as it delivers laughs. If you’re a fan of taut thrillers (this one runs a crisp 80 minutes) and don’t mind a little discomfort, put The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic on your radar.