Cinematic Releases: Tom Of Finland (2017) - Reviewed

There are dozens of films about heroes from misrepresented and/or discriminated against groups of people. The vast majority of these films are respectful to their subjects and present their stories as gripping journeys of self-discovery and overcoming evil adversity. Dome Karuksoski's masterpiece, Tom of Finland, exists beyond this concept, presenting the life story of the most subversive gay artist in history as a beautiful combination of unfaltering pride in the face of hatred and oppression with a story of equal parts inspiration and rebellion. 

The evolution of Touko "Tom of Finland” Laaksonen's art mirrors his life. His compositions begin as tranquil reflections of a world from which he was forced to be apart from; forced to hide his homosexuality during his service in World War I. Pekka Strang gives one of the best performances of 2017, perfectly emulating the haunted sorrow of not being able to live freely in a country that considers your existence a crime. Tom's odyssey, catalogued by Aleksi Bardy's poetic script follows his life through the war, through his time in Finland, and ultimately his time in America as an openly gay symbol of artistic freedom. Tom's career is intimately tied not only to the socially conscious evolution of his homeland and the USA, but also a powerful exploration of the history of censorship. One of the most important aspects of both Karukoski's direction and Strang's performance is how they unabashedly approach gay sexual culture. In a world where endless, heterosexually charged art dominates every aspect of media, Tom of Finland tastefully challenges the notion that the male figure is also a thing of wonder. Tom's entire career is both a sly refutation of discrimination and an often humorous reminder that kink, in all its forms is beautiful.

Lasse Frank’s cinematography captures everything within Karukoski's turbulent world with a sense of calm resistance. Characters stand humbly before their ideals, while wanting glances and horrifying acts of abuse are infused amongst a quietly lit tapestry. Tom's art is a natural accoutrement, filling almost every frame with a reminder of Tom's passion and turmoil, capturing his subjects with angles that continually sharpen, mimicking the focus of personal freedom. The way this transformation is interwoven into virtually every aspect is breathtaking, creating a vision of influence and harmony that would define Tom until the end of his life. 

Coming soon to theaters and digital on demand, Tom of Finland is the Finnish entry into the Best Foreign Film category to the Academy Awards for this year. Featuring a landmark performance, blissful visuals, and an uncompromisingly human approach to its subject matter, this is one of the greatest biopics of the decade.

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-Kyle Jonathan