Picture Tree International has boarded international sales and debuted the trailer for Miia Tervo’s upcoming comedy “The Missile,” set to world premiere at Göteborg’s just-announced Nordic Competition.
Produced by Finland’s Kaisla Viitala at Elokuvayhtio Komeetta and Estonia’s Daniel Kuitunen at Stellar Film, the movie will be distributed in Scandinavia by Aurora Studios.
Tervo’s second feature after the award-winning “Aurora” – which opened the Swedish fest back in 2019 – teases a “uniquely crafted mix of political satire, heartfelt comedy and kitchen-sink drama, rooted in Northern brevity and melancholy,” according to its description.
Starring Oona Airola (pictured above in a first-look image), the film kicks off in Finkand’s Lapland in 1984, when an unexpected Soviet missile incident disrupts the tranquil life of single mother Niina.
Soon, she joins a motley crew of reporters and embarks on a comedic journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she forms an unlikely romance with Kai, a melancholic fighter pilot who holds the key to the missile’s truth. As Niina races against time to uncover its secrets, she navigates complex relationships, personal growth and a love that transcends borders.
Based on a true story, “[it’s] a tale about female self-empowerment around a geopolitical ‘situation,’” Airola said.
“What I like about Niina is that she is brave enough to go through the hardest possible thing: drawing the lines and finally putting herself first. It’s not easy for her, but it’s necessary,” the actor added.
Known for Juho Kuosmanen’s “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki” and Markku Pölönen’s “Land of Hope,” she is no stranger to period settings.
“I just love to step into the shoes of someone who lives in a different time, but people are always the same. If you read Emily Brontë, you can tell she has the same thoughts and problems as women today,” Airola said. “I don’t look for these kinds of stories – they find me and it makes me feel lucky. I see myself as an old soul.”
Still, echoes of 1980s political uncertainty shown in the film can be felt also today.
“It’s very interesting – and also a bit weird – that Miia decided to write about Inari’s missile crisis before Russia attacked Ukraine. Suddenly, this film is very timely,” Airola asserted. “It’s a good time for us, Finns, to think about what it means to be independent. We cannot get rid of our history and Russia will always be our neighbor country.”
Written by Tervo, “The Missile” was already noticed at Helsinki industry event Finnish Film Affair in September, where it was named best project.
“[This question of] where private boundaries meet national borders is very interesting to me. How do we relate to invisible limits of life as a person and as a society?” Tervo asked.
Admitting her affection for deadpan comedy – “I love it. I can’t help myself” – Tervo continues to talk about complicated female characters in her films.
“These are women I see around me. I want to portray humans who don’t know how to live but they have sincere intentions and they want to help other people. They are lost and by helping others they find themselves. They are the silent heroes of ordinary life,” she said.
“These women are very often left out of decision-making. The ‘survival of the fittest’ and the harshness of the world is hard for these sisters,” Tervo continued. “We can’t say these women are weak if we make them weak, if we see power as something aggressive and violent. Being strong is not about learning how to fight. But as an artist, I need to fight for these women.”
Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Tommi Korpela, Pyry Kähkönen and Jarkko Niemi are also in the cast.
“We wanted to emphasize the period of ‘Finlandization’ [term referring to the influence of the Soviet Union on Finland’s policies during the Cold War] and how the government and ordinary citizens have functioned during that time,” producer Viitala told Variety.
“When talking about the threat to our own security created by another state, we are used to seeing politicians or defence forces as the actors, but in ‘The Missile,’ we deal with border violation and the threat it creates from the perspective of single mother Niina. In our story, she is the one who acts and finds out what this would mean for Finns.”
However, Niina “finds it difficult to make her own decisions,” she noted. “It seems that she has also always been a person who was not told the whole truth. That’s why the situation in the film makes her act. She learns to take responsibility for her decisions.”
Picture Tree Intl. will also bring historical drama “Stormskerry Maja” to Göteborg, following its earlier bow at Rotterdam (IFFR). Directed by Tiina Lymi and shot in English and Swedish, it focuses on a young peasant woman and her family, as they embark on a journey to the desolate and remote island of Stormskerry.
Watch the trailer for “The Missile” above.