In addition to being a true story, Juho Kuosmanen’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki may well be a first: a boxing movie that’s downright sweet. Being a period piece about boxing shot in gloriously grainy b&w, it’s also an inverse of the most famous example of that subgenre, Raging Bull. Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) is a 60-kilo Finnish boxer who’s in training to take on World Featherweight Champion Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.) in 1962. The extra attention and pressure put on Olli is bad enough, but it also gets in the way of him falling in requited love with his friend Raija (Oona Airola).
Olli’s manager Elis (Eero Milonoff) tells him it’s a terrible time for that sort of thing, and that while playing naked grab-ass with other men in the gym is totally fine, when preparing for a World Championship match “it doesn’t look good if you have a chick on your arm all the time.” (As always, the rules of heterosexual masculinity are soooooo weird.) The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is a portrait of a man who is ultimately a nurturer rather than a destroyer — in spite of punching people for a living — and it’s one of the best films of the year.
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.