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- STUFF - 

Fans of supposedly-mature-adults-behaving-badly (or bawdily) comedies like Calendar Girls, Grumpy Old Men and The Bucket List should definitely check out this sometimes riotous Finnish tale of three disparate sisters.

Believing that she has killed her husband with a frying pan, 74-year-old Inkeri (Leena Uotila) plans to hand herself into the police, but is persuaded by her free-spirited older sibling-cum-lawyer Sylvi (Saara Pakkasvirta) to at least go on a road trip and have some fun before facing up to her crime.

“I would have killed him a long time ago,” Sylvi says, “he prevented you from studying and following your dream career.”

After Inkeri admits pleading manslaughter isn’t really an option (“because I intended to kill him…”) and that her lashing out was sparked by a complaint about jam, she agrees to go on the lam, along with Sylvi and their more cautious, eldest sister Raili (Seela Sela).

Cue a series of scrapes and misadventures, as the trio reconnect with each other and their individual selves, vodka loosening up tongues and inhibitions, with entertaining, surprising and potentially disastrous results.

It also isn’t long before Inkeri finds her focus shifting to a new purpose, tracking down the man that got away. However, it turns out there might just be some other aspects of her past that aren’t quite done with her either.

Actor turned director and co-writer Pamela Tola (whose last film was 2018’s equally eye-raising adult crisis comedy Swingers) has crafted a wonderful combination of familial drama and road movie. Think Thelma and Louise-meets-The Golden Girls.

The trio’s antics and conversations are a hoot, touching on very real and human concerns, regrets and recriminations, while also refreshingly frank (but importantly without such dialogue feeling forced). “If I was sitting here on my own I’d pass for a schoolgirl,” Sylvi proudly proclaims during a bar visit, before revealing a little too much about a recent visit to the beautician.

Making the most of her eclectic triumvirate, Tola ensures they never feel like archetypes, placing them in situations that give them an opportunity to shine, but also react in complicated, genuine ways.

A true cinematic delight from the country that’s also given the world a free-spirited and inspirational prime minister (who also debuted on our shores this week), viewers should be warned that Ladies of Steel features some Waking Ned Devine-esque nudity, family gatherings gone awry and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

- James Croot, STUFF

Ladies of Steel is now playing in select theatres across New Zealand!