The Cuckoo

This mild-mannered anti-war fable takes place in my ancestors' stomping ground, Lapland, the northernmost part of Scandinavia, at the end of World War II.

A Finnish soldier and a Russian soldier – enemies by design, but both shunned and threatened with death by their own armies for speaking out against the war – each find themselves at the home of a young Sami (Lapp) widow. None of these three people speaks the same language, but the isolation each has experienced has increased their sex drives substantially.

Though marketed as a sexy romp, The Cuckoo is notably coy about its few erotic scenes, keeping it all off camera. Instead, the film's primary subject matter is the corrupting effect of war on ordinary people. (The story's irony is that, although both the Russian and the Finn are pacifists, because of language confusions the Russian sees the Finn as a threat – though whether it's for political or romantic reasons is subjective.) As expected, the no-nonsense Sami woman clucks her tongue knowingly at the foolishness of men, but it's balanced by her bold – and very funny – declarations of lust to the clueless Finn.

The Cuckoo bogs down towards the end with some unnecessary mysticism, but the beautiful Arctic scenery, refreshingly sympathetic triple point of view, and fine performances (newcomer Anni-Christina Juuso is adorable) fill out the characters and color the film with dignity and bittersweetness.