The old school and the modern world quietly bump heads in the Finnish drama 'One Last Deal' as ageing art dealer Olavi Launio (Heikki Nousiainen, 'Letters to Father Jacob') decides he’s ready to retire from the business that has been his driving motivation for most of his life. His wife has passed away, and the workaholic Olavi has been estranged from his daughter Lea (Pirjo Lonkrta) and grandson Otto (Amos Brotherus) for years. He is a weary old man caught between his lifelong passion for art and his growing irrelevance as a dealer due to technological advancements, changes in taste, and a market with a waning interest in the pastoral scenes and portraiture of yore.
Olavi knows he is running out of time and just wants one final opportunity to prove his eye to the world, which emerges when he finds a mysterious unsigned painting, 'Portrait Of A Man', that he's sure was created by the famous Russian realist painter Ilya Repin. His plans to acquire the piece are complicated when his daughter resurfaces, needing Olavi’s help with her delinquent son, Otto (Amos Brotherus), who needs a job placement for his school credits. He grudgingly agrees to let Otto apprentice in his gallery, not because he is interested in rekindling these relationships, but because of his growing obsession in proving the enigmatic painting is what he knows it is: a hidden treasure.
Elegantly directed by Klaus Härö’s and beautifully written by Anna Heinämaa, 'One Last Deal' often feels more like a play than a film as it explores the budding friendship between Olavi and Otto, along with the social and cultural divides that keep them at arm’s length. Olavi sees no use in the modern technologies of the day and prefers typewriters, calculators and a Rolodex of business contacts; Otto doesn’t understand why he would need a pencil to do anything when he has his smartphone. But working together to uncover the secrets of the painting, they both begin to see the value in each other’s methods - not just with research, but also with the passionate way they both approach aspects of their own worlds. Otto begins to find the pleasure in research that requires turning actual pages and hunting down old volumes of books that only exist in paper. Through succumbing to email, Olavi discovers an answer to why his special painting ended up slipping through the cracks and into his knowledgeable hands.
Darker elements temper the gentleness of the film. Olavi also must contend with the unscrupulous and incompetent art dealer Dick Sundell (Jakob Ohrman) from the local auction house who sabotages Olavi’s present and future attempts to sell this valuable painting, which Olavi leveraged literally every last cent to acquire. Our hero is also a wily businessman and selfish individual - even as Olavi is given second chances at his family and his career, he still takes terrible advantage of his grandson financially. While he gives himself one last chance to succeed, you have to wonder if he may end up disappointing everyone before he gets the kind of redemption he’ll be able to enjoy.
Elegantly directed by Klaus Härö’s and beautifully written by Anna Heinämaa, the film explores the budding friendship between Olavi and Otto, along with the social and cultural divides that keep them at arm’s length.
Like the art on display, 'One Last Deal' is a lovely-looking film. An atmospheric Helsinki looks appealing, and cinematographer Tuomo Hutri bathes key moments in a warm glow. The production design team make Olavi’s gloomy apartment and gallery look lived-in and layered with clutter. Books are stacked in wobbly towers, paintings line the walls, and dark nights are lit by the amber glow from a single lamp.
'One Last Deal' is a film about final chances, paired with a lilting and haunting lullaby of a score, along with the use of classical pieces by Vivaldi, Rachmaninov, Handel and Mozart. The characters are real and human, and their pain is palpable. Nousiainen, Lonka, and Brotherus as grandfather, mother, and son respectively, each turn in gorgeous and touching performances.
Both a slow-moving detective story and a touching drama, ‘One Last Chance’ demonstrates how, even when profound familial emotions have been turbulent in the past, the bonds of family can still be healed.