The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is a slice-of-life slighter than a featherweight (I'm sure the filmmaker would bristle at this bad boxing analogy). In this particular sliver of time, Finnish amateur boxer Mäki, "the baker of Kokkola," is training for the 1962 World Featherweight Title against American Davey Moore (John Bosco, Jr.). Mäki, is a muscled, tiny knot of a man (portrayed plainly with efficiency by Jarkko Lahti) with a quiet personality and dissonant desires--a hardened discipline of his craft but also a tendency to wander within his tender relationship with Raija (Oona Airola). Neither him nor Raija seem fond of or interested in the consumerist, bulb-flashing pizzazz his sport, managed by a hovering Elis (Eero Milonoff, in the movie's most interesting performance), brings.
Almost an anti-sports movie in the way it eschews sports movie cliches and de-glamorizes athleticism, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is coolly presented and heavy on ho-hum ironies (the buildup to the match is both predictable and somewhat of a chore). It's a fairly boring picture that derives its most tense moment with a weigh-in. While the direction from Juho Kuosmanen is smooth, seemingly effortless and despite being framed in elegant black & white photography by Jani-Petteri Passi, for some reason the movie never sticks. **1/2
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